Wednesday, November 18, 2015


Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining - a Motivational Speech by Angela Lansbury

This speech was first given to HOD. I started with the story about speeches and the London bombing. Gil Ornstein liked the story about my uncle the most. So the next time I have the speech to Harrovians, I moved the story about my uncle to first place.

Motivational Speech

Every cloud has a silver lining
I’m wearing silver so that when ever you see silver you will remember my speech about every cloud has a silver lining. How many of you think that’s a cliché? You are right. That’s what I used to think. Until this week. When I opened my newspaper and read a story about a man who survived the bomb in Paris.

I’m going to tell you three stories, 
The first is about myself and how a bomb in London changed me , made me be prepared, so that I am always ready to give a speech any time. 

The second is about my uncle and how being colour blind in WWII changed his life.

The third is about somebody in the recent bombing in Paris and how a leg injury changed their life.

Let’s start with me and this club. How many of you have been a Toastmaster of the evening, or a club president, and had a moment of setback, disaster, when a speaker dropped out? How many of you have been to a meeting when the speaker dropped out?

I’ve been to several meetings where a vital person dropped out, or the VIP speaker. The most memorable was at Harrow Writers Circle, on the evening of the London bombings. 

We were lucky, nobody from the club was hurt. The trains weren't running, but we all got to the meeting, wanting to get away from the bad news and cheer up with an entertaining speaker, although the the trains weren’t running, we were all present, ready to hear our VIP speaker.

Only one problem. Can you guess what it was? No trains. No speaker. The VIP speaker. 

The club president was disappointed, crestfallen. He had done his best. He had a game to fill 20 minutes.  The jolly meeting, which could have taken our mind off the trouble, would have left 20 people going home early. He said, jokingly, “I don’t suppose anybody’s got a speech?’

"I have," I said, "in fact I have two."

In my bag, which I’d never bothered to empty, I still had my speeches from HOD and Harrovians, the two clubs I had visited the previous week. I had two speeches, and six funny props. 

Months afterwards people said to me, "I couldn’t believe you gave a speech without notes - and you even had the props. And then you gave a second speech without notes, complete with all the props."

"Well," I shrugged, "that’s just what I normally do."

The moral is, every cloud has a silver lining. But you must be prepared. Sometime, somewhere, you will be at a meeting where the speaker doesn’t turn up. If you have one good speech, and a small index card in your pocket, you can always step in.   

My second story is more dramatic. My late uncle was a colour blind musician. I went to visit my elderly uncle in hospital. He was dying and sitting in his hospital bed hunched over, reading a newspaper with a magnifying glass, beside an empty vase. I thought that was sad and offered to go down to the shop and get him some flowers. He said, I don’t want any flowers. I can’t see them anyway. I’m colour blind. 

I said, “You can see well enough to read. What are you reading?” He said, ‘Obituaries. 
I’ve outlived everybody.”

After he died I went to his house. a black and white house, with a grey paved front, no flowers in the garden. The walls and paintwork inside like a black and white film, completely devoid of colour.  

I realised that as a child and scholarship music student he had compensated for his poor sight by being extra sensitive to sound. That’s what made him a virtuoso musician.

My mother’s first husband couldn’t play the violin, but he had perfect vision. He was a pilot in WWII. He died during the first year of their marriage, at El Alamein in Egypt. 

Her brother, my uncle had volunteered and joined the RAF. wanted to be a pilot. He was rejected because he was colour blind. Being colour blind saved his life.

In the family deed box I have two documents, the notice that my mother's husband, aged in his twenties, was presumed dead, and the death certificate of my colour blind uncle who reached the age of 79.

Steve Jobs, the  … key developer in Apple, gave a talk when he knew he had cancer. He said, when you look forwards in life, you can’t necessarily see all the links, join all the dots. It’s only when you look back, that you can see how your setbacks were what gave you, or somebody else the opportunity or the motivation to succeed.

My third and last story is another story about a bombing in Paris, France. The terrorist reportedly walked along the line of survivors kicking the leg of every third body to see if they were still alive. He came up to one man, kicked the leg, got no reaction, and moved on. That man lived to tell the tale. He had not reacted because of an injury to his knee. One newspaper report said it was a prosthetic leg. A very memorable image. An injury most people would consider bad luck, yet it bought him good luck long term because it saved his life.

What’s the moral? I’ve read dozens of stories of people who have conquered difficulties. The actress Sarah Bernhardt lost a leg and acted propped up against a table. This week’s story was about a man who lost the use of his leg and it saved his life.
The moral is, learn, prepare, and make the best of life. Because every cloud has a silver lining.

Remember the man with the bad knew, who survived the bombing. Remember the colour blind musician who couldn't be a pilot but survived to read the obituaries of everybody else.
When you are feeling it’s hard to cope, just put your speech notes and your props in your bag, and remember my colour blind uncle reading the obituaries of others, knowing that being colour blind saved his life in WWII’ and the man with the damaged leg, who, because of that, was one of the lucky survivors. Some of you have a speech just as good as mine. Put the outline on a card index card, and keep it in your pocket. One day I might not be able to make the meeting and it could be your lucky day. Every cloud has a silver lining, for somebody.

Angela Lansbury, CC, CL, ACG, author and speaker.

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