Manner of Speaking

Stan Grant’s Speech on Racism in Australia

Stan Grant, an indigenous Australian journalist, gave a speech in October 2015 at a debate on racism in Australia. The video of that speech has been released and it has gone viral.

Several people are touting it as the Australian equivalent of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech. While I would not elevate this speech to that status—and Grant himself has said that, while he is flattered, he is “not in any way worthy of that sort of comparison”—it is an excellent speech. Forceful, hopeful, compelling, moving.

Interestingly, the speech was apparently delivered off-the-cuff. Said Grant,

I didn’t want to write anything, I didn’t want to be standing there looking down at notes. I just wanted to look people directly in the eye. I wanted to make a statement about how we live with the weight of history.

He succeeded.

It is hard not to be moved by such a poignant speech. Here are some thoughts on it.

 “We sing of it, and we recite it in verse. Australians all, let us rejoice for we are young and freeMy people die young in this country. We die ten years younger than average Australians and we are far from free.”

“I love a sunburned country, a land of sweeping plains, of rugged mountain ranges. It reminds me that my people were killed on those plains. We were shot on those plains, disease ravaged us on those plains.”

“The Australian Dream. We’re better than this. I have seen the worst of the world as a reporter. I spent a decade in war zones from Iraq to Afghanistan, and Pakistan. We are an extraordinary country. We are in so many respects the envy of the world.”

And, using epistrophe: “Of course racism is killing the Australian Dream. It is self evident that it’s killing the Australian dream. But we are better than that. The people who stood up and supported Adam Goodes and said, “No more,” they are better than that. The people who marched across the bridge for reconciliation, they are better than that. The people who supported Kevin Rudd when he said sorry to the Stolen Generations, they are better than that. My children and their non-Indigenous friends are better than that. My wife who is not Indigenous is better than that.”

Congratulations, Stan Grant on your excellent speech. Here’s hoping that it leads to some positive, concrete steps in your country. And elsewhere.

To all my friends Down Under, Happy Australia Day!