Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 21) – Jean de la Bruyère

Jean de la Bruyère on mediocre public speaking

Jean de la Bruyère (1645 – 1696) French Essayist and Satirist

“There are certain things in which mediocrity is not to be endured, such as poetry, music, painting and public speaking.”

– Jean de la Bruyère


About John Zimmer

International speaker, presentation skills expert, lawyer, improv performer
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2 Responses to Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 21) – Jean de la Bruyère

  1. Gabriela says:

    Frankly, I don’t like this quote. In my understanding Bruyère tells me to either be brilliant or else shut up (or do not paint / produce poetry / music).

    I can’t see how I could have even the slightest chance to maybe one day (in a different life from now) become brilliant if I am not allowed to be mediocre (or even poor) while training to be better.

    This quote is discouraging.

    I think this idea/attitude is the reason why most poeple don’t dare doing a lot of things like drawing, painting, singing, …. anything (and I am one of these).

    I admit though that I might have completely misunderstood as I am not an native English speaker.

    • John Zimmer says:


      Thanks for the very thoughtful comment. Clearly, this quote has touched a nerve.

      But that was my rationale for starting this series. As I said in the post for the first one (Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 1)): “The quotes might be serious; they might be humorous; they might be bizarre; but they will all have something to do with public speaking. Do you agree with them? Why or why not? Do you have any other insights? Share your thoughts!”

      Having said that, I interpret the quote as saying that every time you get up to speak in public, you should give your best. One might not be the most polished speaker, but that does not necessarily mean that one is mediocre.

      Here is a post with a fantastic speech by Becky Blanton – http://wp.me/pwfa1-mF – As I said in the post, she “might not be the most polished speaker; she might fiddle with her notes; she might look down at the floor too often. But the quiet passion with which she speaks trumps everything else.” In short, she was anything BUT mediocre.

      Hope this perspective helps and thanks again.


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