So you’ve been asked to give a speech on Medicare for All. Very exciting! If you’ve never done it before, it can be a little intimidating, but it’s very doable. First, ask yourself some questions:
- Who is the audience? Is it your DSA chapter? A community group? If so, what community? A women’s group? A local high school or a college class? The audience will determine how you want to focus your talk. If it’s a women’s group, you may want to spend some time talking about reproductive justice as part of a universal healthcare program. If it’s a high school group, remember that their insurance, if they have any, is paid for by their parents and so costs might not mean that much to them.
- How big is the audience? Are you going to be sitting around a table or in someone’s living room with 10-15 people? Is it going to be a workshop at a convention where anywhere from 20 to 100 people might attend? With a small group of people, you will probably want to keep it informal and have more give and take with the group. In a larger group, it might not be possible to have much Q&A.
- What’s the format of the talk? Are you going to do a 15-minute presentation followed by Q&A, or will this be one item on a long agenda? Do you need to prepare a written talk or a slideshow? The length will obviously control what and how much you can say. If there will be a Q&A, then you’ll need to be prepared to answer questions on a variety of topics.
Once you’ve gathered information, you can begin to prepare your notes or written remarks. Remember, writing a speech is not the same as writing a paper or an article, and while there are no set rules for how best to compose and deliver prepared remarks, try to avoid writing and delivering a word-for-word composition. You don’t want to bore your audience by reading verbatim off a sheet of paper. It’s also impossible in most cases to memorize a ten-minute monologue before you deliver it.
Instead, you should think of your speech as a series of small sound bites composed around an outline of major themes or topics. Each topic should have specific reminders or notes about facts or stories that you want to remember to hit.
Once you have decided on your major themes or topics, try to compose your speech in outline form as if it were a story with an arc. You will need a beginning, middle, and an end. Play with your topics and move them around to see which sections make sense as compelling opening or closing notes. Your outline should have a basic rhythm, and each section should lead naturally to the next. Your final section should be what you want your audience to leave with.
Now that you have your outline, you will want to flesh out your topics. Remember: facts, figures and personal stories can be compelling when used effectively, but don’t rely too heavily on number crunching or you’ll leave your audience spinning in a sea of statistics. Similarly, too much personal or anecdotal storytelling can obscure your political argument. You want to convince your audience of something, so a healthy balance of research, anecdote and argument will be most effective.
Your sentences should be short and simple — avoid jargon. Your goal should be to get a few ideas to really resonate with your audience. To this end, repeating yourself and your major argument(s) is a useful technique. Another helpful tip is to “signpost” to your audience where your speech is going at the top of each section. Finally, keeping an audience engaged is not easy: you’ll want to break up your speech with jokes, reprieves, and asides to hold their attention.
Now that you have your topics organized in an outline, you will want to practice your speech. While you won’t always have time to practice your prepared remarks, a few rehearsals go a long way. Try going over your outline out loud with a comrade or by yourself. Again, try not to read sentences directly from your outline, but speak on each of your topics in a loud, clear, and conversational voice. Play with your delivery so that your jokes come across as natural and your conclusions have pathos.
When it’s time to deliver your speech, you should be prepared. With your outline in hand, you can get up to the platform or podium and confidently hit your marks. Of course, an audience is intimidating, and you will likely stumble, dry up, or forget sections of your talk. Don’t sweat it. Your audience has no idea what you have on your outline, and so they can’t tell if you are departing from it. In general, most novice public speakers speak too quickly, and they trip themselves up by racing through their notes. Pause. Take a breath. Compose yourself. Then restart. Make sure to give ample time between sections for applause and laughter. Take your time and try to relax.
Finally, if you are inspired by something that is not on your outline, follow your inspiration. Clarity, relatability, and audience engagement are what make a speech exciting. A joke or a story that hits you on the podium will be recognized as genuine moment of improvisation and will likely make your talk more compelling.
Be sure to end your speech by talking about what your audience can do to work for Medicare for All. There are many ideas in the rest of this organizing guide and on our website about actions that individuals and groups can undertake to support the goal of universal healthcare. Be sure to bring a sign-up sheet and brochures so that people can be included in chapter activities, be advised of events, and spread the word to their friends.
Five key points define DSA’s demands for a universal healthcare program:
- A Universal Program: Everyone will be covered by one healthcare system and have equal access to all medical services and treatments.
- Comprehensive Coverage: All services requiring a medical professional will be fully covered.
- Free at the point of service: All healthcare costs will be ﬁnanced through tax contributions based on ability to pay — no out of pocket payments for services or treatments.
- Coverage for all U.S. residents: Non-citizens included.
- Jobs: A jobs initiative and severance for those affected by the transition.
These five principles lay out a strong political vision for Medicare for All. Rather than making the long-term campaign about any single piece of legislation, the core of the campaign will be about a vision for healthcare. By seeking comprehensive coverage, we implicitly include abortion, transition surgeries/drugs, mental health services, and coverage for all residents (including non-citizens).
Specific Talking Points
- Power Over Profit: The multi-payer, employer-based system is actually very expensive for employers, yet corporate executives are dead set against Medicare for All. Why? Because for them it is not simply about their bottom line, it’s about class power.
- Highest Health Costs, Worst Health Outcomes: Americans pay more for healthcare than any country in the world, yet we are not healthy. Our health outcomes are among the worst for rich countries. We have the highest infant and maternal mortality rates and the lowest life expectancy of rich countries. Our health insurance system is fat with administrative bloat: $278 billion of wasted costs that do not go to our healthcare workers (doctors, nurses, and support staff) but to CEOs that make upwards of $80,000 per day to administer the system.
- Insurance Costs Rise Faster Than Wages: The high cost of private health insurance is quickly outpacing wage growth. As employers have been steadily shifting them onto workers, these costs are a direct transfer of what little income workers make to insurance oligarchs. Socializing insurance will immediately free up more monthly take-home pay for workers.
- Dependency and Disproportionate Effects on Working-Class Women: Women are disproportionately impacted by our profit-driven, multi-payer health insurance system. The U.S. has much higher maternal and infant mortality rates than the rest of the developed world, and working women are locked out of affordable reproductive care. Women are also more likely to provide unpaid care for sick or elderly family members without adequate health coverage. Socializing health insurance and repealing the Hyde Amendment (which bars use of federal funds for abortion) would liberate working-class women from dependency on their or their partners’ jobs while taking the greatest leap forward in reproductive healthcare in 45 years.
- Solidarity and Class Struggle: Our current system not only makes working people dependent, sick, and indebted, but it also pits them against each other, in private insurance markets and in means-tested health programs. A Medicare for All system would positively transform the lives of all kinds of working-class people, regardless of race, gender, immigration status, physical ability, or income. That’s why we want to build a mass movement to fight to take insurance out of the profit-driven market: it will bring together millions under the banner of working-class solidarity, empower them to fight against the insurance companies, bosses, and banks who profit massively off our illness, labor, and debt, and prepare them for future battles in 21st-century class struggle.
For more talking points about Medicare for All, see the FAQ.