Resignation speech

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A resignation speech is a speech made by a public figure upon resigning from office.

Resigning speeches can have considerable political effect for a number of reasons:

  • The resignation of a senior politician is normally an important, sometimes historic, event. As such, resignation speeches often command unusually high public interest and media attention;
  • The exiting politician can take this opportunity to enumerate his or her reasons for their resignation and perhaps to defend his or her reputation (see Richard M Nixon's 1974 speech below);
  • Resigning public figures, particularly politicians, are freed from the constraints of cabinet collective responsibility and constitutional protocol and can voice their opinions with greater independence, for these or other reasons (see the opening paragraph of King Edward VIII's 1936 abdication speech below);
  • The circumstances of a resignation often cast light on the activities or policies of an incumbent government. A resigning minister can cause significant political damage to an administration or to an individual colleague (see Geoffrey Howe's 1990 speech below).

Notable resignation speeches[edit]

  • 1995 - British Prime Minister John Major resigns as Leader of the Conservative Party in order to contest a leadership election with the aim of silencing his internal critics and reasserting his authority. In his speech he famously told his opponents within to 'put up or shut up'. The gambit paid off, and Major was re-elected. Text of this speech.