Welcome to our inaugural “Speak of the Week” column, a new feature on the Speakers’ Spotlight blog, which spotlights what we feel were the most important words spoken, from anywhere in the world, over the previous seven days.
The words we choose “to win” can be said aloud by anyone—from a prime minister or a president, from a school-kid or a teacher—as long as their words are judged by our staff to have had an important impact on the audience that hears them. Words that inspire, words that challenge, even words that infuriate—everything is up for grabs when we meet to discuss the week’s speeches and sound bites and choose from those that perked up our ears the most.
At times, we’ll debate furiously as to whose words should “win” and at other times, we’ll be in unanimous agreement. This week, our first week, is one of the latter instances, wherein we were all in instantaneous agreement; this week, we agreed that there were no other words spoken (or sung) that impacted Canadians (and even those around the world) more than those of The Tragically Hip’s leading man Gord Downie.
With more than 11.3 million Canadians tuned-in to watch the CBC broadcast of what was likely Downie’s last concert, his words from stage brought the nation together to embrace not just his legacy as a famed musician and “Canada’s Poet Laureate”, but to also ponder illness, mortality, and—perhaps most importantly—the well-being of the people of Canada’s First Nations, an issue Downie used his unique national platform to highlight, both for Prime Minister Trudeau, who was in attendance, and Canadians at large.
In an interview two years ago, Downie spoke to his role as a lyricist and front man, stating, “Music brings people closer together. So my function in anything I do is to help bring people closer in.” He could not have done those words more justice than he did on Saturday night, and as he and the band took their final bows, Canadians from coast to coast to coast felt the presence of one another more strongly than perhaps any other time in recent memory, and gave a collective thanks to Gord.