All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Men & Women Of Australia!: Our Greatest Modern Speeches – Michael Fullilove

on September 25, 2014

Men and Women of AustraliaMen And Women Of Australia! Our Greatest Modern Speeches
Michael Fullilove
Penguin Books AUS
2014, 480p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

When I saw this book, there was pretty much one reason that I wanted to read it and that was that it contained Julia Gillard’s speech on misogyny that went viral merely minutes after she delivered it in Parliament. I’ve seen it more than a few times but there’s also something about reading powerful words, seeing them on the page and having them resonate inside your head. The more I looked at the names, the more I wanted to read, given most of these speeches occurred either before I was born or when I was in primary school. It could probably be argued that there’s a certain leaning, in the speeches that make up this volume, and the collator Michael Fullilove seems to readily acknowledge it. But they are his choices and he’s picked some pretty good ones.

I have to be honest – I didn’t read every single speech in this book. Some I skimmed, others I skipped completely. The book is broken down into sections with speeches loosely linked by a common theme, such as ‘A Continent Of Dreams’, ‘In The Arena’, ‘The Vision Splendid’, ‘The Familiar Faded-Green Uniform’, etc. There are many people that appear more than once – Paul Keating, Robert Menzies and Gough Whitlam seem to appear almost on every other page, so high in number are their memorable speeches. Keating in particular, well known for his expertly crafted words provided much in the way of both entertainment and education in his volume. The speech where he compares members of the Opposition to fire crackers is particularly clever and amusing and his famous Redfern speech of 1992 incredibly stirring. Likewise is Kevin Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generation, something that was a long time coming. Say what you like about Rudd’s reputed instability and volatile temper, the speech he delivered that day was one of compassion and wonderful to read. Even Tony Abbott’s included speech was inspiring, perhaps because I couldn’t actually hear him delivering it.

There are some artists included, such as the wonderful Tim Winton with an ode to our beaches, William Deane not on politics but on “having a flutter”, Russell Crowe, Geoffrey Rush, and Andrew Denton waxing lyrical on Allan Border. But mostly it belongs to the political, with sections devoted to federation, indigenous issues, feminism and international relations. There are also a few snippets included from two American presidents with the ‘gift of the gab’, Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama. General Douglas Macarthur makes an appearance as well and there are speeches by Pope John Paul II and Nelson Mandela.

I think what surprised me most about this (in a very good way) was how much I learned through reading, or how much reading some of these speeches jogged my memory about things I’d long forgotten. I did Australian history in school but we’re talking 20 years or so ago now and most of the knowledge had faded away, other than the basic facts and things you come across quite often. Though most of the speeches are quite short, they have to get their point across and there can be a lot of information packed into them. There’s quite a comprehensive modern (must stress that bit) Australian history contained within, from Federation in 1901 right up until the last couple of years. There is a speech from the first woman in parliament, on choosing a new national anthem, on indigenous issues and inroads into reconciliation, changing immigration policies and patterns, shifting from the European to the Asian, African and Middle Eastern, a speech to outlaw the Communism Party. It’s like a timeline of history (not always in order) encompassing military, health, education and diversity. The development of a fledgling nation.

It always takes me much longer to read non-fiction books – this one took me over a week. I’d read 100 or so pages and then put it down and not go back to it for a day or two. I have two pretty hefty political autobiographies to read soon and I know they’re going to take me forever because I’ll take breaks to read a lot of fiction in between but I have to admit, I feel much more accomplished when I finish a non-fiction book than when I finish a fiction book! The format of this book makes it really easy to pick up and put down, reading snippets here and there or skimming through to find the speech you want to read. I read it in order (it was on my kindle, so not as easy to flick through as a paperback) but there were several speeches I did go back and re-read more than once. Fullilove credits Barrack Obama with a resurgence in good speeches and there’s something powerful about a person who can deliver words that inspire you and make you feel. I enjoyed this a lot and although it probably helps to have at least a passing interest in politics, it’s not so detailed that the reader gets bogged down. The fact that they’re kept short and sweet means that if the one you’re on isn’t for you, you can just turn the page and find a new one.

8/10

Book #185 of 2014

Going to throw this in here, just because!

Aussie-Author-Challenge-2014-final-badge

Counting this one toward my Aussie Author Challenge – it’s book #15

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