The Best Pep Talks of the Pandemic
I don’t know about you, but if you’re anything like me, you’re in need of a good pep talk.
The last few years have taken it out of us. Slammed with environmental, political and social disasters, we’ve experienced one global calamity after another. But for many of us, the most soul-destroying has been the pandemic.
Stuck in our houses for months, many of us without human contact, the pandemic and the lockdowns that followed have left an indelible imprint on us all. The elderly, the single, and the families coping with small confines and young children all suffered from the bleak and unrelenting reality of being locked up inside.
We turned to all manner of therapy to survive. Some drank too much. Some baked one too many loaves of unleavened banana bread, and some curled up in bed and blocked it all out.
But there was one sure-fire way to survive the existential crisis – listening to a good old-fashioned pep talk.
The Arrival of the Pandemic Pep Talk
The last few years have seen our leaders vacillate between coaxing us to exercise outside or convincing us to stay locked up inside. Barring the fines and punishments meted out to those who dared to open their doors, motivational speeches were the cornerstone of positive reinforcement.
Given that we couldn’t assemble, it’s no surprise that most of these speeches were delivered online, welcoming a new era of motivation for the masses.
The inspirational speech has seen a revival, and I’m here to show you the best.
The Queen – ‘We Will Meet Again’
The Queen isn’t one for impromptu speeches. Let’s face it; she does things by the book. Still, the pandemic was an unprecedented event, and on April 5th, 2020, during the worst stretch of lockdown, the Queen made a rare speech to the British people. It was only four and a half minutes long, but boy, was it a tear-jerker.
One doesn’t need to know Queen Elizabeth personally to know she doesn’t seem entirely comfortable making public speeches. When she does powder her nose and get behind the camera, her scripts often seem overly prepared, dare I say it, a little stilted. But when the Queen made her ‘We Will Meet Again’ speech, that stoicism and the quiet reserve was what many people needed.
‘We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return. We will be with our friends again. We will be with our families again. We will meet again.’
When the Queen thanked selfless NHS workers and called on a sense of national solidarity, she said what we expected of her. But it was her allusion to World War Two that got everyone where it hurt.
Three minutes into the speech, the Queen recalled her war experience. ‘It reminds me of the very first broadcast I made in 1940, helped by my sister. We as children spoke from here at Windsor to children who had been evacuated from their homes and sent away for their own safety.’
That would have been enough to make most people choke up, but it was when she referenced that haunting ballad of the era and her favourite, ‘We Will Meet Again’, that the speech became memorable. ‘We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return. We will be with our friends again. We will be with our families again. We will meet again.’
Watch the Queen’s speech here.
Matthew McConaughey – ‘Because Every Red Light Eventually Turns Green’
You may not have put Matthew McConaughey at the top of the ‘most motivational speakers’ list, but he surprised us all during the pandemic.
We all remember the iconic scene in ‘Wolf of Wall Street’. McConaughey slams his chest and rhythmically hums to psych up his money-hungry colleagues. We’ve known he could motivate a crowd. But his pandemic pep-talk ‘Every Red Light Eventually Turns Green’ proves he can also make a darn good speech.
The speech, transmitted on Twitter and, at the time of writing, viewed over 5 million times, was even shorter than the Queen’s speech, at only 1:29 minutes. Intimate and punchy, this metaphorical fist-pump was wholly suited to the medium.
Short and snappy, the speech is a series of powerful soundbites. Littered with metaphors, it’s informal and intimate. We’re best buddies with McConaughey, and he’s sitting us down to sort us out.
But it’s the namesake metaphor of the speech ‘Because Every Red Light Eventually Turns Green’ that hits the home run.
Watch McConaughey’s speech here.
Kid Superintendent – ‘You Got This!’
Another side-effect of lockdown was heightened emotions. I only needed to watch an advertisement for coffee with a happy family sharing a cuppa to break down in a flood of tears. You can imagine the Kid Superintendent’s effect on me when I watched his heart-string-tugging motivational speech ‘You Got This.’
Made as a call-out to students thrown into online learning, the Kid Superintendent gives just the right blend of pep-talk and humour. This isn’t just for kids, either. Even this wizened and weary adult found herself punching the air and saying, ‘Yeah, I got this,’ by the end.
What the Kid Superintendent’s speech here.
The Future of the Pep Talk
The pandemic has been brutal. That much is undeniable. But there were moments when truly great speeches took us out of our pain and helped us feel as though we had it in us to survive.
Hopefully, the pandemic pep-talk isn’t a genre we will need more of, but I’m thankful for its comfort when I needed it most.
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