Inspirational speakers of English (according to Japanese college students)

I asked my Keio Study Skills students to produce a list of what they considered to be “inspirational public speakers”. The speakers on the list had to be able to speak English, but not necessarily as a first language. The list had to include both male and female speakers. This is the list they came up with:

  • Donald Trump (US President)
  • Malala Yousafzai (Activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate)
  • Hillary Clinton (US politician)
  • Michelle Obama (US politician)
  • Martin Luther King Jr. (US civil rights activist)
  • Mark Zuckerberg (Founder of Facebook)
  • George Bush (ex-US President)
  • Charlie Chaplin (Actor and comedian)
  • Christel Takigawa (Japanese television announcer, Tokyo Olympics spokesperson)
  • Bill Gates (Founder of Microsoft)
  • Aung San Suu Kyi (Politician, diplomat, author, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate)
  • J. F. Kennedy (ex-US President)
  • Emma Gonzales (Survivor of Stoneman Douglas High School shooting)
  • Hiroshi Mikitani (CEO of Rakuten)
  • Margaret Thatcher (ex-UK Prime Minister)
  • Winston Churchill (ex-UK Prime Minister)

I pointed out that George Bush was famous for his English grammatical mistakes, and that Donald Trump, while inspirational to many, is probably not the best role model for public speaking. I also couldn’t find a video of Christel Takigawa speaking English (she mainly speaks French and Japanese) so replaced her with a clip of Masato Mizuno, who also spoke in favor of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Other than these unsuitable choices, the list is not a bad selection of different speakers and speaking styles, and it represents both male and female, as well as native and non-native speakers of English.

Of course the reason many of the speakers are on this list is not necessarily because they are inspirational speakers per se, but rather because they have had inspirational experiences, or are conveying an inspirational message, or have achieved a high level of business or political success. The availability heuristic also had an obvious impact on selection of speakers, especially considering the high number of US and UK presidents and Prime Ministers.

I made a short compilation video featuring some of the speakers from the list to help inspire students for their own presentations:

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