WELL, if I made that joke, it is the best one I ever made, and it is in the prettiest language, too. I never can get quite to that height. But I appreciate that joke, and I shall remember it -- and I shall use it when occasion requires.
I have had a great many birthdays in my time. I remember the first one very well, and I always think of it with indignation; everything was so crude, unaesthetic, primeval. Nothing like this at all. No proper appreciative preparation made; nothing really ready.
Now, for a person born with high and delicate instincts -- why, even the cradle wasn't whitewashed -- nothing ready at all.
I hadn't any hair, I hadn't any teeth, I hadn't any clothes, I had to go to my first banquet just like that. Well, everybody came swarming in. It was the merest little bit of a village -- hardly that, just a little hamlet, in the backwoods of Missouri, where nothing ever happened, and the people were all interested, and they all came; they looked me over to see if there was anything fresh in my line.
Why, nothing ever happened in that village -- I -- why, I was the only thing that had really happened there for months and months and months; and although I say it myself that shouldn't, I came the nearest to being a real event that had happened in that village in more than two years.
Well, those people came, they came with that curiosity which is so provincial, with that frankness which also is so provincial, and they examined me all around and gave their opinion.
Nobody asked them, and I shouldn't have minded if anybody had paid me a compliment, but nobody did. Their opinions were all just green with prejudice, and I feel those opinions to this day.
Well, I stood that as long as -- well, you know I was born courteous, and I stood it to the limit. I stood it an hour, and then the worm turned. I was the worm; it was my turn to turn, and I turned.
I knew very well the strength of my position; I knew that I was the only spotlessly pure and innocent person in that whole town, and I came out and said so. And they could not say a word. It was so true.
They blushed; they were embarrassed. Well, that was the first after-dinner speech I ever made. I think it was after dinner.
It's a long stretch between that first birthday speech and this one. That was my cradle-song, and this is my swan-song, I suppose.
I am used to swan-songs; I have sung them several times. This is my seventieth birthday, and I wonder if you all rise to the size of that proposition, realizing all the significance of that phrase, seventieth birthday.
The seventieth birthday! It is the time of life when you arrive at a new and awful dignity; when you may throw aside the decent reserves which have oppressed you for a generation and stand unafraid and unabashed upon your seven-terraced summit and look down and teach -- unrebuked.
You can tell the world how you got there. It is what they all do. You shall never get tired of telling by what delicate arts and deep moralities you climbed up to that great place.
You will explain the process and dwell on the particulars with senile rapture. I have been anxious to explain my own system this long time, and now at last I have the right.
I have achieved my seventy years in the usual way: by sticking strictly to a scheme of life which would kill anybody else. It sounds like an exaggeration, but that is really the common rule for attaining to old age.
When we examine the programme of any of these garrulous old people we always find that the habits which have preserved them would have decayed us; that the way of life which enabled them to live upon the property of their heirs so long, as Mr. Choate says, would have put us out of commission ahead of time.
I will offer here, as a sound maxim, this: That we can't reach old age by another man's road.
I will now teach, offering my way of life to whomsoever desires to commit suicide by the scheme which has enabled me to beat the doctor and the hangman for seventy years.
Some of the details may sound untrue, but they are not. I am not here to deceive; I am here to teach.
We have no permanent habits until we are forty. Then they begin to harden, presently they petrify, then business begins.
Since forty I have been regular about going to bed and getting up -- and that is one of the main things. I have made it a rule to go to bed when there wasn't anybody left to sit up with; and I have made it a rule to get up when I had to.
This has resulted in an unswerving regularity of irregularity. It has saved me sound, but it would injure another person.
In the matter of diet -- which is another main thing -- I have been persistently strict in sticking to the things which didn't agree with me until one or the other of us got the best of it. Until lately I got the best of it myself.
But last spring I stopped frolicking with mince-pie after midnight; up to then I had always believed it wasn't loaded.
For thirty years I have taken coffee and bread at eight in the morning, and no bite nor sup until seven-thirty in the evening. Eleven hours.
That is all right for me, and is wholesome, because I have never had a headache in my life, but headachy people would not reach seventy comfortably by that road, and they would be foolish to try it.
And I wish to urge upon you this -- which I think is wisdom -- that if you find you can't make seventy by any but an uncomfortable road, don't you go.
When they take off the Pullman and retire you to the rancid smoker, put on your things, count your checks, and get out at the first way station where there's a cemetery.
I have made it a rule never to smoke more than one cigar at a time. I have no other restriction as regards smoking. I do not know just when I began to smoke, I only know that it was in my father's lifetime, and that I was discreet.
He passed from this life early in 1847, when I was a shade past eleven; ever since then I have smoked publicly. As an example to others, and not that I care for moderation myself, it has always been my rule never to smoke when asleep, and never to refrain when awake.
It is a good rule. I mean, for me; but some of you know quite well that it wouldn't answer for everybody that's trying to get to be seventy.
I smoke in bed until I have to go to sleep; I wake up in the night, sometimes once, sometimes twice, sometimes three times, and I never waste any of these opportunities to smoke.
This habit is so old and dear and precious to me that I would feel as you, sir, would feel if you should lose the only moral you've got -- meaning the chairman -- if you've got one: I am making no charges.
I will grant, here, that I have stopped smoking now and then, for a few months at a time, but it was not on principle, it was only to show off; it was to pulverize those critics who said I was a slave to my habits and couldn't break my bonds.
To-day it is all of sixty years since I began to smoke the limit. I have never bought cigars with life-belts around them. I early found that those were too expensive for me. I have always bought cheap cigars -- reasonably cheap, at any rate.
Sixty years ago they cost me four dollars a barrel, but my taste has improved, latterly, and I pay seven now. Six or seven. Seven, I think. Yes, it's seven. But that includes the barrel. I often have smoking-parties at my house; but the people that come have always just taken the pledge. I wonder why that is?
As for drinking, I have no rule about that. When the others drink I like to help, otherwise I remain dry, by habit and preference. This dryness does not hurt me, but it could easily hurt you, because you are different. You let it alone.
Since I was seven years old I have seldom taken a dose of medicine, and have still seldomer needed one. But up to seven I lived exclusively on allopathic medicines. Not that I needed them, for I don't think I did; it was for economy; my father took a drug-store for a debt, and it made cod-liver oil cheaper than the other breakfast foods.
We had nine barrels of it, and it lasted me seven years. Then I was weaned.
The rest of the family had to get along with rhubarb and ipecac and such things, because I was the pet. I was the first Standard Oil Trust. I had it all. By the time the drug-store was exhausted my health was established, and there has never been much the matter with me since.
But you know very well it would be foolish for the average child to start for seventy on that basis.
It happened to be just the thing for me, but that was merely an accident; it couldn't happen again in a century.
I have never taken any exercise, except sleeping and resting, and I never intend to take any. Exercise is loathsome. And it cannot be any benefit when you are tired; and I was always tired. But let another person try my way, and see where he will come out.
I desire now to repeat and emphasize that maxim: We can't reach old age by another man's road. My habits protect my life, but they would assassinate you.
I have lived a severely moral life. But it would be a mistake for other people to try that, or for me to recommend it. Very few would succeed: you have to have a perfectly colossal stock of morals; and you can't get them on a margin; you have to have the whole thing, and put them in your box.
Morals are an acquirement -- like music, like a foreign language, like piety, poker, paralysis -- no man is born with them. I wasn't myself, I started poor.
I hadn't a single moral. There is hardly a man in this house that is poorer than I was then. Yes, I started like that -- the world before me, not a moral in the slot.
Not even an insurance moral. I can remember the first one I ever got. I can remember the landscape, the weather, the -- I can remember how everything looked.
It was an old moral, an old second-hand moral, all out of repair, and didn't fit, anyway. But if you are careful with a thing like that, and keep it in a dry place, and save it for processions, and Chautauquas, and World's Fairs, and so on, and disinfect it now and then, and give it a fresh coat of whitewash once in a while, you will be surprised to see how well she will last and how long she will keep sweet, or at least inoffensive.
When I got that mouldy old moral, she had stopped growing,because she hadn't any exercise; but I worked her hard, I worked her Sundays and all.
Under this cultivation she waxed in might and stature beyond belief, and served me well and was my pride and joy for sixty-three years; then she got to associating with insurance presidents, and lost flesh and character, and was a sorrow to look at and no longer competent for business.
She was a great loss to me. Yet not all loss. I sold her -- ah, pathetic skeleton, as she was -- I sold her to Leopold, the pirate King of Belgium; he sold her to our Metropolitan Museum, and it was very glad to get her, for without a rag on, she stands 57 feet long and 16 feet high, and they think she's a brontosaur.
Well, she looks it. They believe it will take nineteen geological periods to breed her match.
Morals are of inestimable value, for every man is born crammed with sin microbes, and the only thing that can extirpate these sin microbes is morals. Now you take a sterilized Christian -- I mean, you take the sterilized Christian, for there's only one. Dear sir, I wish you wouldn't look at me like that.
Threescore years and ten!
"Your invitation honors me, and pleases me because you still keep me in your remembrance.
That was obviously a great birthday message by a great man and writer.
Now, let’s break it down bit by bit and see what went into it.
Twain’s birthday message had three parts: introduction, body, and conclusion. Let’s start with his opening remarks and figure out how to write something close to that, if not better.
‘’ Now, ladies and gentlemen, and Colonel Harvey, I will try not to be greedy on your behalf in wishing the health of our honored and, in view of his great age, our revered guest. I will not say, 'Oh King………… I have had a great many birthdays in my time. I remember the first one very well’’
You see, the introduction of your own birthday speech is like meeting a girl you intend to marry for the very first time.
You’ve got to make a favorable impression if you want the guests to salivate for more.
I am sure by now you are wondering how best you can do that. You don’t have to worry about that because the following tried and tested tips can easily help you start with a bang if you are not even great with words.
First, if you are old enough say 50, 60, 70, 80, etc., you can start with something witty or inspirational.
Suppose, I am giving my 75th birthday speech, then I can start like this:
‘’Once, we were on the bus traveling to a town after ours when I bumped into a young wise man. After chatting for a while, he looked me in the face and said’’ You looked like my grandfather. But it looks like you are much younger!
That got me excited. So, I said. I am actually a young man and I would be 75 next week. I am so happy you called me a young man. Most people have told me I don’t look this old.’’
This young man then asked, ‘’ Sir, are you ageing in reverse? I am only 30 but people don’t believe me when I say that. Someone remarked the other day that I actually looked 50!
To which I said, when you begin to think like a young man, you will always feel much younger. You seem to carrying so much on your shoulders. Then, I said, you have got to give back to the world what you can’t keep and keep what you want to keep.
Ladies and gentlemen, for 75 years now, that has been my personal motto and that has kept me still going strong.
Did you notice how I weaved in that little story? That’s one of the best ways of endearing yourself to the guests on a very personal level because we are all wired for stories.
Second, you can start with a joke. It could be about a nickname and how you got it if your friends and family don’t know about the story behind that name.
Or even a funny story you wish to share that will make your birthday an event to remember.
Third, if you like singing, you can begin by writing a simple thank you birthday speech and sing along to the beat of a well-known song.
Fourth, if you are known to be a serious person, you can start with a quote about life. I want to show you how you can use this simple quote to capture the attention of the party goer’s right from the get go.
Below are quotes to help you get started.
· a. Count your age by friends, not years. ...
· b. Your birthday is the beginning of your own personal new year
· c. Your birthday is an opportunity to reset your life.
Here’s my example based on the last quote.
Thank you so much family and friends for being her on the most important day of my life.
Many of you were with me all those dark years and I couldn’t have made it to 40 without your love and support.
As you know, my whole life was a mess when I first met some of you. It was until I read this quote that your pieces of advice began to make sense to me.
Maggie gave me a gift on my 35th birthday as a gift and on the back was this quote that said your birthday is an opportunity to reset your dreams and expectations.
At that point, I thought my life wouldn’t be good enough until…
Action Tip: You may read those four tips above and decide the route you want to take and just start writing your opening address.
Now, let’s see…
How You Can Write The Content Of Your Birthday Speech
Before you write the storyline of your birthday speech for yourself, you should take a few things into consideration first.
A few things like the kind of speech you want to make and the theme of the celebration. Which will both influence your choice of words.
While it is pretty common to give a narrative account of how far life has brought you down the road, some speakers prefer to inspire their listeners by giving them an account of stuff that have helped them survived the rough times.
The temptation here is to give a detailed account of your life particularly if you are wizened by age. But, remember, your birthday speech toast is not an autobiography and it shouldn’t sound like one.
Well, if you are a young person, say from 21 to 45 years old, then you obviously haven’t been through a lot in life.
For example, if you are still a young person, you can make the theme of your birthday speech with any of the following ideas:
· 4 Things I am Grateful For In 30 Years of my life
· 5 People Who have made All The Difference In My Life For The Last 40 years
If you don’t want to use any of that, you can share a few memorable events about your life.
If you are an old man or woman, you can share with the party goers the secrets of longevity by lacing your speech with stories about your personal life and you will give everyone something to smile about.
Action Tip: Relax and write memorable events about your life and decide the kind of stories you wish to add to your own birthday speech toast.