Interesting Literature

10 of the Most Famous and Inspirational Speeches from History

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

What makes a great and iconic speech? There are numerous examples of brilliant orators and speechmakers throughout history, from classical times to the present day. What the best speeches tend to have in common are more than just a solid intellectual argument: they have emotive power, or, for want of a more scholarly word, ‘heart’. Great speeches rouse us to action, or move us to tears – or both.

But of course, historic speeches are often also associated with landmark, or watershed, moments in a nation’s history: when Churchill delivered his series of wartime speeches to Britain in 1940, it was against the backdrop of a war which was still in its early, uncertain stages. And when Martin Luther King stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, he was addressing a crowd who, like him, were marching for justice, freedom, and civil rights for African Americans.

Let’s take a closer look at ten of the best and most famous speeches from great moments in history.

Abraham Lincoln, ‘ Gettysburg Address ’ (1863).

The Gettysburg Address is one of the most famous speeches in American history, yet it was extremely short – just 268 words, or less than a page of text – and Abraham Lincoln, who gave the address, wasn’t even the top billing .

The US President Abraham Lincoln gave this short address at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on 19 November 1863. At the time, the American Civil War was still raging, and the Battle of Gettysburg had been the bloodiest battle in the war, with an estimated 23,000 casualties.

Lincoln’s speech has been remembered while Edward Everett’s – the main speech delivered on that day – has long been forgotten because Lincoln eschewed the high-flown allusions and wordy style of most political orators of the nineteenth century. Instead, he addresses his audience in plain, homespun English that is immediately relatable and accessible.

Sojourner Truth, ‘ Ain’t I a Woman? ’ (1851).

Sometimes known as ‘Ar’n’t I a Woman?’, this is a speech which Sojourner Truth, a freed African slave living in the United States, delivered in 1851 at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio. The women in attendance were being challenged to call for the right to vote.

In her speech, Sojourner Truth attempts to persuade the audience to give women the vote . As both an ex-slave and a woman, Sojourner Truth knew about the plight of both groups of people in the United States. Her speech shows her audience the times: change is coming, and it is time to give women the rights that should be theirs.

John Ball, ‘ Cast off the Yoke of Bondage ’ (1381).

The summer of 1381 was a time of unrest in England. The so-called ‘Peasants’ Revolt’, led by Wat Tyler (in actual fact, many of the leaders of the revolt were more well-to-do than your average peasant), gathered force until the rebels stormed London, executing a number of high-ranking officials, including the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor, Simon Sudbury.

Alongside Tyler, the priest John Ball was an important leading figure of the rebellion. His famous couplet, ‘When Adam delved and Eve span, / Who was then the gentleman?’ sums up the ethos of the Peasants’ Revolt: social inequality was unheard of until men created it.

Winston Churchill, ‘ We Shall Fight on the Beaches ’ (1940).

Winston Churchill had only recently assumed the role of UK Prime Minister when he gave the trio of wartime speeches which have gone down in history for their rhetorical skill and emotive power. This, for our money, is the best of the three.

Churchill gave this speech in the House of Commons on 4 June 1940. Having brought his listeners up to speed with what has happened, Churchill comes to the peroration of his speech : by far the most famous part. He reassures them that if nothing is neglected and all arrangements are made, he sees no reason why Britain cannot once more defend itself against invasion: something which, as an island nation, it has always been susceptible to by sea, and now by air.

Even if it takes years, and even if Britain must defend itself alone without any help from its allies, this is what must happen. Capitulation to the Nazis is not an option. The line ‘if necessary for years; if necessary, alone’ is sure to send a shiver down the spine, as is the way Churchill barks ‘we shall never surrender!’ in the post-war recording of the speech he made several years later.

William Faulkner, ‘ The Agony and the Sweat ’ (1950).

This is the title sometimes given to one of the most memorable Nobel Prize acceptance speeches: the American novelist William Faulkner’s acceptance of the Nobel Prize for Literature at Stockholm in 1950.

In his speech, Faulkner makes his famous statement about the ‘duty’ of writers: that they should write about ‘the human heart in conflict with itself’, as well as emotions and themes such as compassion, sacrifice, courage, and hope. He also emphasises that being a writer is hard work, and involves understanding human nature in all its complexity. But good writing should also remind readers what humankind is capable of.

Emmeline Pankhurst, ‘ The Plight of Women ’ (1908).

Pankhurst (1858-1928) was the leader of the British suffragettes, campaigning – and protesting – for votes for women. After she realised that Asquith’s Liberal government were unlikely to grand women the vote, the Women’s Social and Political Union, founded by Pankhurst with her daughter Christabel, turned to more militant tactics to shift public and parliamentary opinion.

Her emphasis in this speech is on the unhappy lot most women could face, in marriage and in motherhood. She also shows how ‘man-made’ the laws of England are, when they are biased in favour of men to the detriment of women’s rights.

This speech was given at the Portman Rooms in London in 1908; ten years later, towards the end of the First World War, women over 30 were finally given the vote. But it would be another ten years, in 1928 – the year of Pankhurst’s death – before the voting age for women was equal to that for men (21 years).

Franklin Roosevelt, ‘ The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself ’ (1933).

This is the title by which Roosevelt’s speech at his inauguration in 1933 has commonly become known, and it has attained the status of a proverb. Roosevelt was elected only a few years after the Wall Street Crash of 1929 which ushered in the Great Depression.

Roosevelt’s famous line in the speech, which offered hope to millions of Americans dealing with unemployment and poverty, was probably inspired by a line from Henry David Thoreau, a copy of whose writings FDR had been gifted shortly before his inauguration. The line about having nothing to fear except fear itself was, in fact, only added into the speech the day before the inauguration took place, but it ensured that the speech went down in history.

Marcus Tullius Cicero, ‘ Among Us You Can Dwell No Longer ’ (63 BC).

Of all of the great classical orators, perhaps the greatest of all was the Roman statesman, philosopher, and speechmaker, Cicero (whose name literally means ‘chickpea’).

This is probably his best-known speech. At the Temple of Jupiter in Rome, Cicero addressed the crowd, but specifically directed his comments towards Lucius Catiline, who was accused of plotting a conspiracy to set fire to the capital and stage and insurrection. The speech was considered such a fine example of Roman rhetoric that it was a favourite in classrooms for centuries after, as Brian MacArthur notes in The Penguin Book of Historic Speeches .

Queen Elizabeth I, ‘ The Heart and Stomach of a King ’ (1588).

Queen Elizabeth I’s speech to the troops at Tilbury is among the most famous and iconic speeches in English history. On 9 August 1588, Elizabeth addressed the land forces which had been mobilised at the port of Tilbury in Essex, in preparation for the expected invasion of England by the Spanish Armada.

When she gave this speech, Elizabeth was in her mid-fifties and her youthful beauty had faded. But she had learned rhetoric as a young princess, and this training served her well when she wrote and delivered this speech (she was also a fairly accomplished poet ).

She famously tells her troops: ‘I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too’. She acknowledged the fact that her body was naturally less masculine and strong than the average man’s, but it is not mere physical strength that will win the day. It is courage that matters.

Martin Luther King, ‘ I Have a Dream ’ (1963).

Let’s conclude this selection of the best inspirational speeches with the best-known of all of Martin Luther King’s speeches. The occasion for this piece of oratorical grandeur was the march on Washington , which saw some 210,000 men, women, and children gather at the Washington Monument in August 1963, before marching to the Lincoln Memorial. King reportedly stayed up until 4am the night before he was due to give the speech, writing it out.

King’s speech imagines a collective vision of a better and more equal America which is not only shared by many Black Americans, but by anyone who identifies with their fight against racial injustice, segregation, and discrimination.

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10 famous speeches in history that continue to stand the test of time

Martin Luther King Jr. March on Washington 1963

A great speech is something that combines persuasive writing, a comfort with public speaking , and a meaningful message to create an impression greater than the sum of its parts. There’s no one set of rules to govern the ideal speech, and plenty of people struggle with them even with teams of experts to help them out — just see the majority of speeches given by politicians. But once in a while, a truly great speaker and a truly great speech come together to create something that stands out and withstands the test of time, carrying meaning with it through generations even to those who weren’t yet born when it was given.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Demosthenes, queen elizabeth i, george washington, abraham lincoln, chief joseph, winston churchill, john f. kennedy, barack obama, more famous speeches to inspire you.

Great speeches are more than just rhetorical flourish or impressive performance — they’re also calls to action, able to persuade and embolden the listener. These speeches can be inspiring, informative, and instructive, whether you’re interested in learning more about history or working on a speech of your own .

We’ve rounded up 10 of history’s greatest speeches, including excerpts so you can learn about how the power of a great speech can last for years.

1963 ‘I Have a Dream’ speech

The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. ‘s I Have a Dream speech, delivered on August 28, 1963, is one of the finest pieces of oratory in human history. It blended masterful, rich language with the oratorical technique of repetition and it was utterly fearless.

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King would be dead by an assassin’s bullet less than five years after delivering his most famous speech. His words were no mere rhetoric; they were an affirmation of the value of human life and the expression of a cause for which he would give his own.

“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’ … “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

341 BCE ‘Third Philippic’

Though you may not have heard of the Athenian orator Demosthenes, consider the fact that one of history’s most famed speakers of all time, Cicero, cited his ancient forebear 300 years later. Demosthenes’ Third Philippic , so-called because it was the third speech he gave devoted to convincing his fellow Athenians to take up arms against the encroaching forces of Phillip of Macedon, literally led men to war. At the end of his speech, delivered in 341 BCE, the Athenian Assembly moved at once against their rival, spurred on by lines damning the past inaction of his fellow citizens:

“You are in your present plight because you do not do any part of your duty, small or great; for of course, if you were doing all that you should do, and were still in this evil case, you could not even hope for any improvement. As it is, Philip has conquered your indolence and your indifference; but he has not conquered Athens. You have not been vanquished, you have never even stirred.

1588 ‘Spanish Armada’ speech t o the troops at Tilbury

In 1588, English monarch Queen Elizabeth I gave one of the manliest speeches in history, even at one point, putting down her own body for being female. As the “mighty” Spanish Armada, a flotilla of some 130 ships, sailed toward Britain with plans of invasion, the queen delivered a rousing address at Tilbury, Essex, England. As it turned out, a storm and some navigational errors took care of the Spanish warships for the most part. Still, it was a bold speech that helped bolster a nation. This speech also made Queen Elizabeth famous for the armor she wore in front of her troops.

“I am come amongst you, as you see, at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live and die amongst you all; to lay down for my God, and for my kingdom, and my people, my honour and my blood, even in the dust. I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm: To which rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field.”

1783 Resignation speech

To grasp the true power of George Washington ‘s resignation as the commander-in-chief of the U.S. military (then known as the Continental Army) on December 23, 1783, you have to go beyond the words themselves and appreciate the context. Washington was in no way obliged to resign his commission, but did so willingly and even gladly, just as he would later refuse a third term as president of the nation, establishing a precedent honored into the 1940s and thereafter enshrined in law. Despite being the most powerful man in the fledgling military and then becoming the most powerful man in the United States, the staid and humble Washington was never hungry for power for himself; he just happened to be the best man for the job(s).

Even in his last address as leader of the nation’s armed forces, Washington made it all about America, and not about himself:

“Happy in the confirmation of our Independence and Sovereignty, and pleased with the opportunity afforded the United States of becoming a respectable Nation, I resign with satisfaction the Appointment I accepted with diffidence. A diffidence in my abilities to accomplish so arduous a task, which however was superseded by a confidence in the rectitude of our Cause, the support of the Supreme Power of the Union, and the patronage of Heaven.”

1863 ‘Gettysburg Address’

There’s a reason many people consider the Gettysburg Address to be the best speech in American history: It probably is. In just 275 words on November 19, 1863, near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, President Abraham Lincoln managed to express the following sentiments:

  • America is both a place and a concept, both of which are worth fighting.
  • Fighting is horrible, but losing is worse.
  • We have no intention of losing.

Ironically, one line in Lincoln’s speech proved to be laughably inaccurate. Midway through the speech, he humbly said: “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here.” In fact, the world continues to remember his brief yet very stirring address.

“In a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract …

“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us; that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.”

1877 Surrender speech

On October 5, 1877, Nez Perce tribe leader Chief Joseph delivered a short, impromptu, and wrenching speech that many see as the lamentation of the end of an era for Native Americans and the lands that were stolen from them. Overtaken by the United States Army during a desperate multi-week retreat toward Canada, Chief Joseph surrendered to General Howard with this bleak, moving message:

“I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. Toohoolhoolzote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say, ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ He who led the young men [Olikut] is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are — perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.”

1939 ‘Luckiest Man’ speech

No one wants a deadly disease named after them, but that’s what happened to baseball legend Lou Gehrig , who died at 37 after a brief battle with ALS, commonly known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease.” Following a career in which the Hall of Fame player earned many of baseball’s top honors and awards, Gehrig delivered one of the most touching speeches of the 20th century, a speech in which he brought comfort to those mourning his illness even as his health fell apart.

In essence, Gehrig told people not to worry about one dying man, but instead to celebrate all life had to offer as he listed all the wonderful things that occurred in his own life. In so doing, he brought solace to many and created a model of selflessness. Gehrig delivered this short speech at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939.

“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for 17  years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans … “So I close in saying that I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for.”

1940 ‘We Shall Fight on the Beaches’ speech

Winston Churchill delivered many superlative speeches in his day, including the 1946 address that created the term “Iron Curtain” to describe the boundary of Britain’s recent ally, the Soviet Union, and a 1940 speech praising the heroism of the British Royal Air Force in which he uttered the line: “Never was so much owed by so many to so few.”

But it was his bold and bolstering speech delivered on June 4, 1940, to the British Parliament’s House of Commons — commonly referred to as We Shall Fight on the Beaches — that most exemplifies the famed leader. These were more than just words — these were a promise to his nation that they were all in the fight wholeheartedly together and it was a heads-up to the Axis powers that attacking the Brits had been a bad idea.

“We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

1961 inaugural address

Much of President John F. Kennedy ‘s pithy 1,366-word inaugural address, delivered on January 20, 1961, was well-written and meaningful, but as often happens, his speech has stood the test of time thanks to one perfect phrase. Amidst an address filled with both hope and dire warnings (“Man holds in his hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life,” the latter being a clear reference to atomic weapons), he issued a direct appeal to Americans everywhere to stand up for their country. You know the line:

“And so, my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: Ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”

2004 Democratic National Convention keynote address

When our future president – then a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Illinois – Barack Obama delivered a 17-minute speech on the evening of July 27, 2004, at the Democratic National Convention endorsing presidential candidate John Kerry, the personal trajectory of one man and the history of an entire nation shifted dramatically. Already an up-and-coming politician gaining traction in his home state of Illinois, Obama’s keynote address that night transformed him into a national figure and paved the way for his journey to becoming the first POTUS of color. What was it about the speech that so moved the country?

Partly, it was simply the excellent writing, most of which Obama handled himself. Perhaps more so, it was the message of the speech, which spoke to the “abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation.” In short, Obama reminded us of who we were supposed to be as citizens of this nation. And for a flickering moment, many of us heard him.

“There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America. There’s not a Black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America … “We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America. In the end, that’s what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism, or do we participate in a politics of hope?”

While we’ve taken an in-depth look at some of history’s most famous speeches, the list goes much further than those 10. Here are a few more great speeches that helped shape history that still have the power to inspire.

  • 1941 – President Franklin Delano Roosevelt – Day of Infamy speech – Roosevelt’s address to Congress on December 8, 1941, came the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. It’s best known for its opening line: “Yesterday, December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” The speech spurred Congress to declare war on Japan and thrust the U.S. into World War II.
  • 1933 – President Franklin Delano Roosevelt – First Inaugural Address – Considering FDR served four terms during the end of the Great Depression and through World War II, it stands to reason that he would have some pretty famous speeches. His first inaugural address from 1933 is also remembered for one powerful line. As he discussed his plan to pull the country out of the Great Depression, he uttered this iconic line: “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is … fear itself.”
  • 1986 – President Ronald Reagan – Address to the Nation on the Explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger – when Reagan addressed the country on the night of January 28, 1986, the U.S. was reeling from seeing the Space Shuttle Challenger explode, just seconds after launch, killing the crew, which included Christa McAuliffe, who was to be NASA’s first teacher in space. Reagan was to have delivered his State of the Union speech to Congress that night but canceled it in the wake of the Challenger disaster. The speech included these memorable words of condolence: “We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.'”
  • 2001 – President George W. Bush – Address to the nation after 9/11 –  The morning of September 11, 2001, Bush was at a Florida elementary school to meet with children. He would have no idea that the day would end with him addressing the country after the horrific terrorist attacks that brought down the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon. That night, Bush gave the country words of hope, saying that the attacks did nothing to damage the American spirit. “Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts,” Bush said. “The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge structures collapsing, have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness, and a quiet, unyielding anger. These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed; our country is strong.”

We hope you’re feeling more inspired and determined to make your own history after perusing this list. For more historical inspiration, check out ten of our favorite Black History films , a list of fantastic history books to read , a group of iconic photographs of people who changed history , and seven amazing books documenting LGBTQ+ history — not to mention the importance of historical heroes who have been often overlooked . However you intend to change your present and future, we wish you nothing but the best of luck.

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40 famous persuasive speeches you need to hear.

powerful speech history

Written by Kai Xin Koh

famous persuasive speeches highspark cover image

Across eras of calamity and peace in our world’s history, a great many leaders, writers, politicians, theorists, scientists, activists and other revolutionaries have unveiled powerful rousing speeches in their bids for change. In reviewing the plethora of orators across tides of social, political and economic change, we found some truly rousing speeches that brought the world to their feet or to a startling, necessary halt. We’ve chosen 40 of the most impactful speeches we managed to find from agents of change all over the world – a diversity of political campaigns, genders, positionalities and periods of history. You’re sure to find at least a few speeches in this list which will capture you with the sheer power of their words and meaning!

1. I have a dream by MLK

“I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification – one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father’s died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!”

Unsurprisingly, Martin Luther King’s speech comes up top as the most inspiring speech of all time, especially given the harrowing conditions of African Americans in America at the time. In the post-abolition era when slavery was outlawed constitutionally, African Americans experienced an intense period of backlash from white supremacists who supported slavery where various institutional means were sought to subordinate African American people to positions similar to that of the slavery era. This later came to be known as the times of Jim Crow and segregation, which Martin Luther King powerfully voiced his vision for a day when racial discrimination would be a mere figment, where equality would reign.

2. Tilbury Speech by Queen Elizabeth I

“My loving people, We have been persuaded by some that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit our selves to armed multitudes, for fear of treachery; but I assure you I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people. Let tyrants fear. I have always so behaved myself that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good-will of my subjects; and therefore I am come amongst you, as you see, at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live and die amongst you all; to lay down for my God, and for my kingdom, and my people, my honour and my blood, even in the dust. I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm; to which rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field. I know already, for your forwardness you have deserved rewards and crowns; and We do assure you on a word of a prince, they shall be duly paid. In the mean time, my lieutenant general shall be in my stead, than whom never prince commanded a more noble or worthy subject; not doubting but by your obedience to my general, by your concord in the camp, and your valour in the field, we shall shortly have a famous victory over these enemies of my God, of my kingdom, and of my people.”

While at war with Spain, Queen Elizabeth I was most renowned for her noble speech rallying the English troops against their comparatively formidable opponent. Using brilliant rhetorical devices like metonymy, meronymy, and other potent metaphors, she voiced her deeply-held commitment as a leader to the battle against the Spanish Armada – convincing the English army to keep holding their ground and upholding the sacrifice of war for the good of their people. Eventually against all odds, she led England to victory despite their underdog status in the conflict with her confident and masterful oratory.

3. Woodrow Wilson, address to Congress (April 2, 1917)

“The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them. Just because we fight without rancor and without selfish object, seeking nothing for ourselves but what we shall wish to share with all free peoples, we shall, I feel confident, conduct our operations as belligerents without passion and ourselves observe with proud punctilio the principles of right and of fair play we profess to be fighting for. … It will be all the easier for us to conduct ourselves as belligerents in a high spirit of right and fairness because we act without animus, not in enmity toward a people or with the desire to bring any injury or disadvantage upon them, but only in armed opposition to an irresponsible government which has thrown aside all considerations of humanity and of right and is running amuck. We are, let me say again, the sincere friends of the German people, and shall desire nothing so much as the early reestablishment of intimate relations of mutual advantage between us—however hard it may be for them, for the time being, to believe that this is spoken from our hearts. We have borne with their present government through all these bitter months because of that friendship—exercising a patience and forbearance which would otherwise have been impossible. We shall, happily, still have an opportunity to prove that friendship in our daily attitude and actions toward the millions of men and women of German birth and native sympathy who live among us and share our life, and we shall be proud to prove it toward all who are in fact loyal to their neighbors and to the government in the hour of test. They are, most of them, as true and loyal Americans as if they had never known any other fealty or allegiance. They will be prompt to stand with us in rebuking and restraining the few who may be of a different mind and purpose. If there should be disloyalty, it will be dealt with with a firm hand of stern repression; but, if it lifts its head at all, it will lift it only here and there and without countenance except from a lawless and malignant few. It is a distressing and oppressive duty, gentlemen of the Congress, which I have performed in thus addressing you. There are, it may be, many months of fiery trial and sacrifice ahead of us. It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance. But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts—for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free. To such a task we can dedicate our lives and our fortunes, everything that we are and everything that we have, with the pride of those who know that the day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured. God helping her, she can do no other.”

On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson of the USA delivered his address to Congress, calling for declaration of war against what was at the time, a belligerent and aggressive Germany in WWI. Despite his isolationism and anti-war position earlier in his tenure as president, he convinced Congress that America had a moral duty to the world to step out of their neutral observer status into an active role of world leadership and stewardship in order to liberate attacked nations from their German aggressors. The idealistic values he preached in his speech left an indelible imprint upon the American spirit and self-conception, forming the moral basis for the country’s people and aspirational visions to this very day.

4. Ain’t I A Woman by Sojourner Truth

“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman? … If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.”

Hailing from a background of slavery and oppression, Sojourner Truth was one of the most revolutionary advocates for women’s human rights in the 1800s. In spite of the New York Anti-Slavery Law of 1827, her slavemaster refused to free her. As such, she fled, became an itinerant preacher and leading figure in the anti-slavery movement. By the 1850s, she became involved in the women’s rights movement as well. At the 1851 Women’s Rights Convention held in Akron, Ohio, she delivered her illuminating, forceful speech against discrimination of women and African Americans in the post-Civil War era, entrenching her status as one of the most revolutionary abolitionists and women’s rights activists across history.

5. The Gettsyburg Address by Abraham Lincoln

“Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

President Abraham Lincoln had left the most lasting legacy upon American history for good reason, as one of the presidents with the moral courage to denounce slavery for the national atrocity it was. However, more difficult than standing up for the anti-slavery cause was the task of unifying the country post-abolition despite the looming shadows of a time when white Americans could own and subjugate slaves with impunity over the thousands of Americans who stood for liberation of African Americans from discrimination. He urged Americans to remember their common roots, heritage and the importance of “charity for all”, to ensure a “just and lasting peace” among within the country despite throes of racial division and self-determination.

6. Woman’s Rights to the Suffrage by Susan B Anthony

“For any State to make sex a qualification that must ever result in the disfranchisement of one entire half of the people is to pass a bill of attainder, or an ex post facto law, and is therefore a violation of the supreme law of the land. By it the blessings of liberty are for ever withheld from women and their female posterity. To them this government has no just powers derived from the consent of the governed. To them this government is not a democracy. It is not a republic. It is an odious aristocracy; a hateful oligarchy of sex; the most hateful aristocracy ever established on the face of the globe; an oligarchy of wealth, where the right govern the poor. An oligarchy of learning, where the educated govern the ignorant, or even an oligarchy of race, where the Saxon rules the African, might be endured; but this oligarchy of sex, which makes father, brothers, husband, sons, the oligarchs over the mother and sisters, the wife and daughters of every household–which ordains all men sovereigns, all women subjects, carries dissension, discord and rebellion into every home of the nation. Webster, Worcester and Bouvier all define a citizen to be a person in the United States, entitled to vote and hold office. The only question left to be settled now is: Are women persons? And I hardly believe any of our opponents will have the hardihood to say they are not. Being persons, then, women are citizens; and no State has a right to make any law, or to enforce any old law, that shall abridge their privileges or immunities. Hence, every discrimination against women in the constitutions and laws of the several States is today null and void, precisely as in every one against Negroes.”

Susan B. Anthony was a pivotal leader in the women’s suffrage movement who helped to found the National Woman Suffrage Association with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and fight for the constitutional right for women to vote. She courageously and relentlessly advocated for women’s rights, giving speeches all over the USA to convince people of women’s human rights to choice and the ballot. She is most well known for her act of righteous rebellion in 1872 when she voted in the presidential election illegally, for which she was arrested and tried unsuccessfully. She refused to pay the $100 fine in a bid to reject the demands of the American system she denounced as a ‘hateful oligarchy of sex’, sparking change with her righteous oratory and inspiring many others in the women’s suffrage movement within and beyond America.

7. Vladimir Lenin’s Speech at an International Meeting in Berne, February 8, 1916

“It may sound incredible, especially to Swiss comrades, but it is nevertheless true that in Russia, also, not only bloody tsarism, not only the capitalists, but also a section of the so-called or ex-Socialists say that Russia is fighting a “war of defence,” that Russia is only fighting against German invasion. The whole world knows, however, that for decades tsarism has been oppressing more than a hundred million people belonging to other nationalities in Russia; that for decades Russia has been pursuing a predatory policy towards China, Persia, Armenia and Galicia. Neither Russia, nor Germany, nor any other Great Power has the right to claim that it is waging a “war of defence”; all the Great Powers are waging an imperialist, capitalist war, a predatory war, a war for the oppression of small and foreign nations, a war for the sake of the profits of the capitalists, who are coining golden profits amounting to billions out of the appalling sufferings of the masses, out of the blood of the proletariat. … This again shows you, comrades, that in all countries of the world real preparations are being made to rally the forces of the working class. The horrors of war and the sufferings of the people are incredible. But we must not, and we have no reason whatever, to view the future with despair. The millions of victims who will fall in the war, and as a consequence of the war, will not fall in vain. The millions who are starving, the millions who are sacrificing their lives in the trenches, are not only suffering, they are also gathering strength, are pondering over the real cause of the war, are becoming more determined and are acquiring a clearer revolutionary understanding. Rising discontent of the masses, growing ferment, strikes, demonstrations, protests against the war—all this is taking place in all countries of the world. And this is the guarantee that the European War will be followed by the proletarian revolution against capitalism”

Vladimir Lenin remains to this day one of the most lauded communist revolutionaries in the world who brought the dangers of imperialism and capitalism to light with his rousing speeches condemning capitalist structures of power which inevitably enslave people to lives of misery and class stratification. In his genuine passion for the rights of the working class, he urged fellow comrades to turn the “imperialist war” into a “civil” or class war of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie. He encouraged the development of new revolutionary socialist organisations, solidarity across places in society so people could unite against their capitalist overlords, and criticised nationalism for its divisive effect on the socialist movement. In this speech especially, he lambasts “bloody Tsarism” for its oppression of millions of people of other nationalities in Russia, calling for the working class people to revolt against the Tsarist authority for the proletariat revolution to succeed and liberate them from class oppression.

8. I Have A Dream Speech by Mary Wollstonecraft

“If, I say, for I would not impress by declamation when Reason offers her sober light, if they be really capable of acting like rational creatures, let them not be treated like slaves; or, like the brutes who are dependent on the reason of man, when they associate with him; but cultivate their minds, give them the salutary, sublime curb of principle, and let them attain conscious dignity by feeling themselves only dependent on God. Teach them, in common with man, to submit to necessity, instead of giving, to render them more pleasing, a sex to morals. Further, should experience prove that they cannot attain the same degree of strength of mind, perseverance, and fortitude, let their virtues be the same in kind, though they may vainly struggle for the same degree; and the superiority of man will be equally clear, if not clearer; and truth, as it is a simple principle, which admits of no modification, would be common to both. Nay, the order of society as it is at present regulated would not be inverted, for woman would then only have the rank that reason assigned her, and arts could not be practised to bring the balance even, much less to turn it.”

In her vindication of the rights of women, Mary Wollstonecraft was one of the pioneers of the feminist movement back in 1792 who not only theorised and advocated revolutionarily, but gave speeches that voiced these challenges against a dominantly sexist society intent on classifying women as irrational less-than-human creatures to be enslaved as they were. In this landmark speech, she pronounces her ‘dream’ of a day when women would be treated as the rational, deserving humans they are, who are equal to man in strength and capability. With this speech setting an effective precedent for her call to equalize women before the law, she also went on to champion the provision of equal educational opportunities to women and girls, and persuasively argued against the patriarchal gender norms which prevented women from finding their own lot in life through their being locked into traditional institutions of marriage and motherhood against their will.

9. First Inaugural Speech by Franklin D Roosevelt

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days. … More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment. Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. There are many ways in which it can be helped, but it can never be helped merely by talking about it. We must act and act quickly. … I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures that a stricken Nation in the midst of a stricken world may require. These measures, or such other measures as the Congress may build out of its experience and wisdom, I shall seek, within my constitutional authority, to bring to speedy adoption. But in the event that the Congress shall fail to take one of these two courses, and in the event that the national emergency is still critical, I shall not evade the clear course of duty that will then confront me. I shall ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis — broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.”

Roosevelt’s famous inaugural speech was delivered in the midst of a period of immense tension and strain under the Great Depression, where he highlighted the need for ‘quick action’ by Congress to prepare for government expansion in his pursuit of reforms to lift the American people out of devastating poverty. In a landslide victory, he certainly consolidated the hopes and will of the American people through this compelling speech.

10. The Hypocrisy of American Slavery by Frederick Douglass

“What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mock; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy – a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour. Go search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.”

On 4 July 1852, Frederick Douglass gave this speech in Rochester, New York, highlighting the hypocrisy of celebrating freedom while slavery continues. He exposed the ‘revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy’ of slavery which had gone unabolished amidst the comparatively obscene celebration of independence and liberty with his potent speech and passion for the anti-abolition cause. After escaping from slavery, he went on to become a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York with his oratory and incisive antislavery writings. To this day, his fierce activism and devotion to exposing virulent racism for what it was has left a lasting legacy upon pro-Black social movements and the overall sociopolitical landscape of America.

11. Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

“You may write me down in history With your bitter, twisted lies, You may trod me in the very dirt But still, like dust, I’ll rise. Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom? ’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells Pumping in my living room. Just like moons and like suns, With the certainty of tides, Just like hopes springing high, Still I’ll rise. Did you want to see me broken? Bowed head and lowered eyes? Shoulders falling down like teardrops, Weakened by my soulful cries? Does my haughtiness offend you? Don’t you take it awful hard ’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines Diggin’ in my own backyard. You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I’ll rise. Does my sexiness upset you? Does it come as a surprise That I dance like I’ve got diamonds At the meeting of my thighs? Out of the huts of history’s shame I rise Up from a past that’s rooted in pain I rise I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide, Welling and swelling I bear in the tide. Leaving behind nights of terror and fear I rise Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear I rise Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise I rise I rise.”

With her iconic poem Still I Rise , Maya Angelou is well-known for uplifting fellow African American women through her empowering novels and poetry and her work as a civil rights activist. Every bit as lyrical on the page, her recitation of Still I Rise continues to give poetry audiences shivers all over the world, inspiring women of colour everywhere to keep the good faith in striving for equality and peace, while radically believing in and empowering themselves to be agents of change. A dramatic reading of the poem will easily showcase the self-belief, strength and punch that it packs in the last stanza on the power of resisting marginalization.

12. Their Finest Hour by Winston Churchill

“What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.””

In the darkest shadows cast by war, few leaders have been able to step up to the mantle and effectively unify millions of citizens for truly sacrificial causes. Winston Churchill was the extraordinary exception – lifting 1940 Britain out of the darkness with his hopeful, convicted rhetoric to galvanise the English amidst bleak, dreary days of war and loss. Through Britain’s standalone position in WWII against the Nazis, he left his legacy by unifying the nation under shared sacrifices of the army and commemorating their courage.

13. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

“Life for both sexes – and I looked at them (through a restaurant window while waiting for my lunch to be served), shouldering their way along the pavement – is arduous, difficult, a perpetual struggle. It calls for gigantic courage and strength. More than anything, perhaps, creatures of illusion as we are, it calls for confidence in oneself. Without self-confidence we are babes in the cradle. And how can we generate this imponderable quality, which is yet so invaluable, most quickly? By thinking that other people are inferior to oneself. By feeling that one has some innate superiority – it may be wealth, or rank, a straight nose, or the portrait of a grandfather by Romney – for there is no end to the pathetic devices of the human imagination – over other people. Hence the enormous importance to a patriarch who has to conquer, who has to rule, of feeling that great numbers of people, half the human race indeed, are by nature inferior to himself. It must indeed be one of the great sources of his power….Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size. Without that power probably the earth would still be swamp and jungle. The glories of all our wars would be on the remains of mutton bones and bartering flints for sheepskins or whatever simple ornament took our unsophisticated taste. Supermen and Fingers of Destiny would never have existed. The Czar and the Kaiser would never have worn their crowns or lost them. Whatever may be their use in civilised societies, mirrors are essential to all violent and heroic action. That is why Napoleon and Mussolini both insist so emphatically upon the inferiority of women, for if they were not inferior, they would cease to enlarge. That serves to explain in part the necessity that women so often are to men. And it serves to explain how restless they are under her criticism; how impossible it is for her to say to them this book is bad, this picture is feeble, or whatever it may be, without giving far more pain and rousing far more anger than a man would do who gave the same criticism. For if she begins to tell the truth, the figure in the looking-glass shrinks; his fitness in life is diminished. How is he to go on giving judgment, civilising natives, making laws, writing books, dressing up and speechifying at banquets, unless he can see himself at breakfast and at dinner at least twice the size he really is?”

In this transformational speech , Virginia Woolf pronounces her vision that ‘a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction’. She calls out the years in which women have been deprived of their own space for individual development through being chained to traditional arrangements or men’s prescriptions – demanding ‘gigantic courage’ and ‘confidence in oneself’ to brave through the onerous struggle of creating change for women’s rights. With her steadfast, stolid rhetoric and radical theorization, she paved the way for many women’s rights activists and writers to forge their own paths against patriarchal authority.

14. Inaugural Address by John F Kennedy

“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility–I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it–and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man. Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”

For what is probably the most historically groundbreaking use of parallelism in speech across American history, President JFK placed the weighty task of ‘asking what one can do for their country’ onto the shoulders of each American citizen. Using an air of firmness in his rhetoric by declaring his commitment to his countrymen, he urges each American to do the same for the broader, noble ideal of freedom for all. With his crucial interrogation of a citizen’s moral duty to his nation, President JFK truly made history.

15. Atoms for Peace Speech by Dwight Eisenhower

“To pause there would be to confirm the hopeless finality of a belief that two atomic colossi are doomed malevolently to eye each other indefinitely across a trembling world. To stop there would be to accept helplessly the probability of civilization destroyed, the annihilation of the irreplaceable heritage of mankind handed down to us from generation to generation, and the condemnation of mankind to begin all over again the age-old struggle upward from savagery towards decency, and right, and justice. Surely no sane member of the human race could discover victory in such desolation. Could anyone wish his name to be coupled by history with such human degradation and destruction?Occasional pages of history do record the faces of the “great destroyers”, but the whole book of history reveals mankind’s never-ending quest for peace and mankind’s God-given capacity to build. It is with the book of history, and not with isolated pages, that the United States will ever wish to be identified. My country wants to be constructive,not destructive. It wants agreements, not wars, among nations. It wants itself to live in freedom and in the confidence that the peoples of every other nation enjoy equally the right of choosing their own way of life. So my country’s purpose is to help us to move out of the dark chamber of horrors into the light, to find a way by which the minds of men, the hopes of men, the souls of men everywhere, can move forward towards peace and happiness and well-being.”

On a possibility as frightful and tense as nuclear war, President Eisenhower managed to convey the gravity of the world’s plight in his measured and persuasive speech centred on the greater good of mankind. Using rhetorical devices such as the three-part paratactical syntax which most world leaders are fond of for ingraining their words in the minds of their audience, he centers the discourse of the atomic bomb on those affected by such a world-changing decision in ‘the minds, hopes and souls of men everywhere’ – effectively putting the vivid image of millions of people’s fates at stake in the minds of his audience. Being able to make a topic as heavy and fraught with moral conflict as this as eloquent as he did, Eisenhower definitely ranks among some of the most skilled orators to date.

16. The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action by Audre Lorde

“I was going to die, if not sooner then later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you. But for every real word spoken, for every attempt I had ever made to speak those truths for which I am still seeking, I had made contact with other women while we examined the words to fit a world in which we all believed, bridging our differences. What are the words you do not have yet? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? Perhaps for some of you here today, I am the face of one of your fears. Because I am a woman, because I am black, because I am myself, a black woman warrior poet doing my work, come to ask you, are you doing yours?”

Revolutionary writer, feminist and civil rights activist Audre Lorde first delivered this phenomenal speech at Lesbian and Literature panel of the Modern Language Association’s December 28, 1977 meeting, which went on to feature permanently in her writings for its sheer wisdom and truth. Her powerful writing and speech about living on the margins of society has enlightened millions of people discriminated across various intersections, confronting them with the reality that they must speak – since their ‘silence will not protect’ them from further marginalization. Through her illuminating words and oratory, she has reminded marginalized persons of the importance of their selfhood and the radical capacity for change they have in a world blighted by prejudice and division.

17. 1965 Cambridge Union Hall Speech by James Baldwin

“What is dangerous here is the turning away from – the turning away from – anything any white American says. The reason for the political hesitation, in spite of the Johnson landslide is that one has been betrayed by American politicians for so long. And I am a grown man and perhaps I can be reasoned with. I certainly hope I can be. But I don’t know, and neither does Martin Luther King, none of us know how to deal with those other people whom the white world has so long ignored, who don’t believe anything the white world says and don’t entirely believe anything I or Martin is saying. And one can’t blame them. You watch what has happened to them in less than twenty years.”

Baldwin’s invitation to the Cambridge Union Hall is best remembered for foregrounding the unflinching differences in white and African Americans’ ‘system of reality’ in everyday life. Raising uncomfortable truths about the insidious nature of racism post-civil war, he provides several nuggets of thought-provoking wisdom on the state of relations between the oppressed and their oppressors, and what is necessary to mediate such relations and destroy the exploitative thread of racist hatred. With great frankness, he admits to not having all the answers but provides hard-hitting wisdom on engagement to guide activists through confounding times nonetheless.

18. I Am Prepared to Die by Nelson Mandela

“Above all, My Lord, we want equal political rights, because without them our disabilities will be permanent. I know this sounds revolutionary to the whites in this country, because the majority of voters will be Africans. This makes the white man fear democracy. But this fear cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the only solution which will guarantee racial harmony and freedom for all. It is not true that the enfranchisement of all will result in racial domination. Political division, based on colour, is entirely artificial and, when it disappears, so will the domination of one colour group by another. The ANC has spent half a century fighting against racialism. When it triumphs as it certainly must, it will not change that policy. This then is what the ANC is fighting. Our struggle is a truly national one. It is a struggle of the African people, inspired by our own suffering and our own experience. It is a struggle for the right to live. During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Apartheid is still considered one of these most devastating events of world history, and it would not have ended without the crucial effort and words of Nelson Mandela during his courageous political leadership. In this heartbreaking speech , he voices his utter devotion to the fight against institutionalised racism in African society – an ideal for which he was ‘prepared to die for’. Mandela continues to remind us today of his moral conviction in leading, wherein the world would likely to be a better place if all politicians had the same resolve and genuine commitment to human rights and the abolition of oppression as he did.

19. Critique on British Imperialism by General Aung San

“Do they form their observations by seeing the attendances at not very many cinemas and theatres of Rangoon? Do they judge this question of money circulation by paying a stray visit to a local bazaar? Do they know that cinemas and theatres are not true indicators, at least in Burma, of the people’s conditions? Do they know that there are many in this country who cannot think of going to these places by having to struggle for their bare existence from day to day? Do they know that those who nowadays patronise or frequent cinemas and theatres which exist only in Rangoon and a few big towns, belong generally to middle and upper classes and the very few of the many poor who can attend at all are doing so as a desperate form of relaxation just to make them forget their unsupportable existences for the while whatever may be the tomorrow that awaits them?”

Under British colonial rule, one of the most legendary nationalist leaders emerged from the ranks of the thousands of Burmese to boldly lead them towards independence, out of the exploitation and control under the British. General Aung San’s speech criticising British social, political and economic control of Burma continues to be scathing, articulate, and relevant – especially given his necessary goal of uniting the Burmese natives against their common oppressor. He successfully galvanised his people against the British, taking endless risks through nationalist speeches and demonstrations which gradually bore fruit in Burma’s independence.

20. Nobel Lecture by Mother Teresa

“I believe that we are not real social workers. We may be doing social work in the eyes of the people, but we are really contemplatives in the heart of the world. For we are touching the Body Of Christ 24 hours. We have 24 hours in this presence, and so you and I. You too try to bring that presence of God in your family, for the family that prays together stays together. And I think that we in our family don’t need bombs and guns, to destroy to bring peace–just get together, love one another, bring that peace, that joy, that strength of presence of each other in the home. And we will be able to overcome all the evil that is in the world. There is so much suffering, so much hatred, so much misery, and we with our prayer, with our sacrifice are beginning at home. Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the action that we do. It is to God Almighty–how much we do it does not matter, because He is infinite, but how much love we put in that action. How much we do to Him in the person that we are serving.”

In contemporary culture, most people understand Mother Teresa to be the epitome of compassion and kindness. However, if one were to look closer at her speeches from the past, one would discover not merely her altruistic contributions, but her keen heart for social justice and the downtrodden. She wisely and gracefully remarks that ‘love begins at home’ from the individual actions of each person within their private lives, which accumulate into a life of goodness and charity. For this, her speeches served not just consolatory value or momentary relevance, as they still inform the present on how we can live lives worth living.

21. June 9 Speech to Martial Law Units by Deng Xiaoping

“This army still maintains the traditions of our old Red Army. What they crossed this time was in the true sense of the expression a political barrier, a threshold of life and death. This was not easy. This shows that the People’s Army is truly a great wall of iron and steel of the party and state. This shows that no matter how heavy our losses, the army, under the leadership of the party, will always remain the defender of the country, the defender of socialism, and the defender of the public interest. They are a most lovable people. At the same time, we should never forget how cruel our enemies are. We should have not one bit of forgiveness for them. The fact that this incident broke out as it did is very worthy of our pondering. It prompts us cool-headedly to consider the past and the future. Perhaps this bad thing will enable us to go ahead with reform and the open policy at a steadier and better — even a faster — pace, more speedily correct our mistakes, and better develop our strong points.”

Mere days before the 4 June 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising, Chinese Communist Party leader Deng Xiaoping sat with six party elders (senior officials) and the three remaining members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the paramount decision-making body in China’s government. The meeting was organised to discuss the best course of action for restoring social and political order to China, given the sweeping economic reforms that had taken place in the past decade that inevitably resulted in some social resistance from the populace. Deng then gave this astute and well-regarded speech, outlining the political complexities in shutting down student protests given the context of reforms encouraging economic liberalization already taking place, as aligned with the students’ desires. It may not be the most rousing or inflammatory of speeches, but it was certainly persuasive in voicing the importance of taking a strong stand for the economic reforms Deng was implementing to benefit Chinese citizens in the long run. Today, China is an economic superpower, far from its war-torn developing country status before Deng’s leadership – thanks to his foresight in ensuring political stability would allow China to enjoy the fruits of the massive changes they adapted to.

22. Freedom or Death by Emmeline Pankhurst

“You won your freedom in America when you had the revolution, by bloodshed, by sacrificing human life. You won the civil war by the sacrifice of human life when you decided to emancipate the negro. You have left it to women in your land, the men of all civilised countries have left it to women, to work out their own salvation. That is the way in which we women of England are doing. Human life for us is sacred, but we say if any life is to be sacrificed it shall be ours; we won’t do it ourselves, but we will put the enemy in the position where they will have to choose between giving us freedom or giving us death. Now whether you approve of us or whether you do not, you must see that we have brought the question of women’s suffrage into a position where it is of first rate importance, where it can be ignored no longer. Even the most hardened politician will hesitate to take upon himself directly the responsibility of sacrificing the lives of women of undoubted honour, of undoubted earnestness of purpose. That is the political situation as I lay it before you today.”

In 1913 after Suffragette Emily Davison stepped in front of King George V’s horse at the Epsom Derby and suffered fatal injuries, Emmeline Pankhurst delivered her speech to Connecticut as a call to action for people to support the suffragette movement. Her fortitude in delivering such a sobering speech on the state of women’s rights is worth remembering for its invaluable impact and contributions to the rights we enjoy in today’s world.

23. Quit India by Mahatma Gandhi

“We shall either free India or die in the attempt; we shall not live to see the perpetuation of our slavery. Every true Congressman or woman will join the struggle with an inflexible determination not to remain alive to see the country in bondage and slavery. Let that be your pledge. Keep jails out of your consideration. If the Government keep me free, I will not put on the Government the strain of maintaining a large number of prisoners at a time, when it is in trouble. Let every man and woman live every moment of his or her life hereafter in the consciousness that he or she eats or lives for achieving freedom and will die, if need be, to attain that goal. Take a pledge, with God and your own conscience as witness, that you will no longer rest till freedom is achieved and will be prepared to lay down your lives in the attempt to achieve it. He who loses his life will gain it; he who will seek to save it shall lose it. Freedom is not for the coward or the faint-hearted.”

Naturally, the revolutionary activist Gandhi had to appear in this list for his impassioned anti-colonial speeches which rallied Indians towards independence. Famous for leading non-violent demonstrations, his speeches were a key element in gathering Indians of all backgrounds together for the common cause of eliminating their colonial masters. His speeches were resolute, eloquent, and courageous, inspiring the hope and admiration of many not just within India, but around the world.

24. 1974 National Book Award Speech by Adrienne Rich, Alice Walker, Audre Lorde

“The statement I am going to read was prepared by three of the women nominated for the National Book Award for poetry, with the agreement that it would be read by whichever of us, if any, was chosen.We, Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, and Alice Walker, together accept this award in the name of all the women whose voices have gone and still go unheard in a patriarchal world, and in the name of those who, like us, have been tolerated as token women in this culture, often at great cost and in great pain. We believe that we can enrich ourselves more in supporting and giving to each other than by competing against each other; and that poetry—if it is poetry—exists in a realm beyond ranking and comparison. We symbolically join together here in refusing the terms of patriarchal competition and declaring that we will share this prize among us, to be used as best we can for women. We appreciate the good faith of the judges for this award, but none of us could accept this money for herself, nor could she let go unquestioned the terms on which poets are given or denied honor and livelihood in this world, especially when they are women. We dedicate this occasion to the struggle for self-determination of all women, of every color, identification, or derived class: the poet, the housewife, the lesbian, the mathematician, the mother, the dishwasher, the pregnant teen-ager, the teacher, the grandmother, the prostitute, the philosopher, the waitress, the women who will understand what we are doing here and those who will not understand yet; the silent women whose voices have been denied us, the articulate women who have given us strength to do our work.”

Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, and Alice Walker wrote this joint speech to be delivered by Adrienne Rich at the 1974 National Book Awards, based on their suspicions that the first few African American lesbian women to be nominated for the awards would be snubbed in favour of a white woman nominee. Their suspicions were confirmed, and Adrienne Rich delivered this socially significant speech in solidarity with her fellow nominees, upholding the voices of the ‘silent women whose voices have been denied’.

25. Speech to 20th Congress of the CPSU by Nikita Khruschev

“Considering the question of the cult of an individual, we must first of all show everyone what harm this caused to the interests of our Party. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin had always stressed the Party’s role and significance in the direction of the socialist government of workers and peasants; he saw in this the chief precondition for a successful building of socialism in our country. Pointing to the great responsibility of the Bolshevik Party, as ruling Party of the Soviet state, Lenin called for the most meticulous observance of all norms of Party life; he called for the realization of the principles of collegiality in the direction of the Party and the state. Collegiality of leadership flows from the very nature of our Party, a Party built on the principles of democratic centralism. “This means,” said Lenin, “that all Party matters are accomplished by all Party members – directly or through representatives – who, without any exceptions, are subject to the same rules; in addition, all administrative members, all directing collegia, all holders of Party positions are elective, they must account for their activities and are recallable.””

This speech is possibly the most famed Russian speech for its status as a ‘secret’ speech delivered only to the CPSU at the time, which was eventually revealed to the public. Given the unchallenged political legacy and cult of personality which Stalin left in the Soviet Union, Nikita Khruschev’s speech condemning the authoritarian means Stalin had resorted to to consolidate power as un-socialist was an important mark in Russian history.

26. The Struggle for Human Rights by Eleanor Roosevelt

“It is my belief, and I am sure it is also yours, that the struggle for democracy and freedom is a critical struggle, for their preservation is essential to the great objective of the United Nations to maintain international peace and security. Among free men the end cannot justify the means. We know the patterns of totalitarianism — the single political party, the control of schools, press, radio, the arts, the sciences, and the church to support autocratic authority; these are the age-old patterns against which men have struggled for three thousand years. These are the signs of reaction, retreat, and retrogression. The United Nations must hold fast to the heritage of freedom won by the struggle of its people; it must help us to pass it on to generations to come. The development of the ideal of freedom and its translation into the everyday life of the people in great areas of the earth is the product of the efforts of many peoples. It is the fruit of a long tradition of vigorous thinking and courageous action. No one race and on one people can claim to have done all the work to achieve greater dignity for human beings and great freedom to develop human personality. In each generation and in each country there must be a continuation of the struggle and new steps forward must be taken since this is preeminently a field in which to stand still is to retreat.”

Eleanor Roosevelt has been among the most well-loved First Ladies for good reason – her eloquence and gravitas in delivering every speech convinced everyone of her suitability for the oval office. In this determined and articulate speech , she outlines the fundamental values that form the bedrock of democracy, urging the rest of the world to uphold human rights regardless of national ideology and interests.

27. The Ballot or The Bullet by Malcolm X

“And in this manner, the organizations will increase in number and in quantity and in quality, and by August, it is then our intention to have a black nationalist convention which will consist of delegates from all over the country who are interested in the political, economic and social philosophy of black nationalism. After these delegates convene, we will hold a seminar; we will hold discussions; we will listen to everyone. We want to hear new ideas and new solutions and new answers. And at that time, if we see fit then to form a black nationalist party, we’ll form a black nationalist party. If it’s necessary to form a black nationalist army, we’ll form a black nationalist army. It’ll be the ballot or the bullet. It’ll be liberty or it’ll be death.”

Inarguably, the revolutionary impact Malcolm X’s fearless oratory had was substantial in his time as a radical anti-racist civil rights activist. His speeches’ emancipatory potential put forth his ‘theory of rhetorical action’ where he urges Black Americans to employ both the ballot and the bullet, strategically without being dependent on the other should the conditions of oppression change. A crucial leader in the fight for civil rights, he opened the eyes of thousands of Black Americans, politicising and convincing them of the necessity of fighting for their democratic rights against white supremacists.

28. Living the Revolution by Gloria Steinem

“The challenge to all of us, and to you men and women who are graduating today, is to live a revolution, not to die for one. There has been too much killing, and the weapons are now far too terrible. This revolution has to change consciousness, to upset the injustice of our current hierarchy by refusing to honor it, and to live a life that enforces a new social justice. Because the truth is none of us can be liberated if other groups are not.”

In an unexpected commencement speech delivered at Vassar College in 1970, Gloria Steinem boldly makes a call to action on behalf of marginalized groups in need of liberation to newly graduated students. She proclaimed it the year of Women’s Liberation and forcefully highlighted the need for a social revolution to ‘upset the injustice of the current hierarchy’ in favour of human rights – echoing the hard-hitting motto on social justice, ‘until all of us are free, none of us are free’.

29. The Last Words of Harvey Milk by Harvey Milk

“I cannot prevent some people from feeling angry and frustrated and mad in response to my death, but I hope they will take the frustration and madness and instead of demonstrating or anything of that type, I would hope that they would take the power and I would hope that five, ten, one hundred, a thousand would rise. I would like to see every gay lawyer, every gay architect come out, stand up and let the world know. That would do more to end prejudice overnight than anybody could imagine. I urge them to do that, urge them to come out. Only that way will we start to achieve our rights. … All I ask is for the movement to continue, and if a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door…”

As the first openly gay elected official in the history of California, Harvey Milk’s entire political candidature was in itself a radical statement against the homophobic status quo at the time. Given the dangerous times he was in as an openly gay man, he anticipated that he would be assassinated eventually in his political career. As such, these are some of his last words which show the utter devotion he had to campaigning against homophobia while representing the American people, voicing his heartbreaking wish for the bullet that would eventually kill him to ‘destroy every closet door’.

30. Black Power Address at UC Berkeley by Stokely Carmichael

“Now we are now engaged in a psychological struggle in this country, and that is whether or not black people will have the right to use the words they want to use without white people giving their sanction to it; and that we maintain, whether they like it or not, we gonna use the word “Black Power” — and let them address themselves to that; but that we are not going to wait for white people to sanction Black Power. We’re tired waiting; every time black people move in this country, they’re forced to defend their position before they move. It’s time that the people who are supposed to be defending their position do that. That’s white people. They ought to start defending themselves as to why they have oppressed and exploited us.”

A forceful and impressive orator, Stokely Carmichael was among those at the forefront of the civil rights movement, who was a vigorous socialist organizer as well. He led the Black Power movement wherein he gave this urgent, influential speech that propelled Black Americans forward in their fight for constitutional rights in the 1960s.

31. Speech on Vietnam by Lyndon Johnson

“The true peace-keepers are those men who stand out there on the DMZ at this very hour, taking the worst that the enemy can give. The true peace-keepers are the soldiers who are breaking the terrorist’s grip around the villages of Vietnam—the civilians who are bringing medical care and food and education to people who have already suffered a generation of war. And so I report to you that we are going to continue to press forward. Two things we must do. Two things we shall do. First, we must not mislead the enemy. Let him not think that debate and dissent will produce wavering and withdrawal. For I can assure you they won’t. Let him not think that protests will produce surrender. Because they won’t. Let him not think that he will wait us out. For he won’t. Second, we will provide all that our brave men require to do the job that must be done. And that job is going to be done. These gallant men have our prayers-have our thanks—have our heart-felt praise—and our deepest gratitude. Let the world know that the keepers of peace will endure through every trial—and that with the full backing of their countrymen, they are going to prevail.”

During some of the most harrowing periods of human history, the Vietnam War, American soldiers were getting soundly defeated by the Vietnamese in guerrilla warfare. President Lyndon Johnson then issued this dignified, consolatory speech to encourage patriotism and support for the soldiers putting their lives on the line for the nation.

32. A Whisper of AIDS by Mary Fisher

“We may take refuge in our stereotypes, but we cannot hide there long, because HIV asks only one thing of those it attacks. Are you human? And this is the right question. Are you human? Because people with HIV have not entered some alien state of being. They are human. They have not earned cruelty, and they do not deserve meanness. They don’t benefit from being isolated or treated as outcasts. Each of them is exactly what God made: a person; not evil, deserving of our judgment; not victims, longing for our pity ­­ people, ready for  support and worthy of compassion. We must be consistent if we are to be believed. We cannot love justice and ignore prejudice, love our children and fear to teach them. Whatever our role as parent or policymaker, we must act as eloquently as we speak ­­ else we have no integrity. My call to the nation is a plea for awareness. If you believe you are safe, you are in danger. Because I was not hemophiliac, I was not at risk. Because I was not gay, I was not at risk. Because I did not inject drugs, I was not at risk. The lesson history teaches is this: If you believe you are safe, you are at risk. If you do not see this killer stalking your children, look again. There is no family or community, no race or religion, no place left in America that is safe. Until we genuinely embrace this message, we are a nation at risk.”

Back when AIDS research was still undeveloped, the stigma of contracting HIV was even more immense than it is today. A celebrated artist, author and speaker, Mary Fisher became an outspoken activist for those with HIV/AIDS, persuading people to extend compassion to the population with HIV instead of stigmatizing them – as injustice has a way of coming around to people eventually. Her bold act of speaking out for the community regardless of the way they contracted the disease, their sexual orientation or social group, was an influential move in advancing the human rights of those with HIV and spreading awareness on the discrimination they face.

33. Freedom from Fear by Aung San Suu Kyi

“The quintessential revolution is that of the spirit, born of an intellectual conviction of the need for change in those mental attitudes and values which shape the course of a nation’s development. A revolution which aims merely at changing official policies and institutions with a view to an improvement in material conditions has little chance of genuine success. Without a revolution of the spirit, the forces which produced the iniquities of the old order would continue to be operative, posing a constant threat to the process of reform and regeneration. It is not enough merely to call for freedom, democracy and human rights. There has to be a united determination to persevere in the struggle, to make sacrifices in the name of enduring truths, to resist the corrupting influences of desire, ill will, ignorance and fear. Saints, it has been said, are the sinners who go on trying. So free men are the oppressed who go on trying and who in the process make themselves fit to bear the responsibilities and to uphold the disciplines which will maintain a free society. Among the basic freedoms to which men aspire that their lives might be full and uncramped, freedom from fear stands out as both a means and an end. A people who would build a nation in which strong, democratic institutions are firmly established as a guarantee against state-induced power must first learn to liberate their own minds from apathy and fear.”

Famous for her resoluteness and fortitude in campaigning for democracy in Burma despite being put under house arrest by the military government, Aung San Suu Kyi’s speeches have been widely touted as inspirational. In this renowned speech of hers, she delivers a potent message to Burmese to ‘liberate their minds from apathy and fear’ in the struggle for freedom and human rights in the country. To this day, she continues to tirelessly champion the welfare and freedom of Burmese in a state still overcome by vestiges of authoritarian rule.

34. This Is Water by David Foster Wallace

“Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the centre of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving…. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day. That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.”

Esteemed writer David Foster Wallace gave a remarkably casual yet wise commencement speech at Kenyon College in 2005 on the importance of learning to think beyond attaining a formal education. He encouraged hundreds of students to develop freedom of thought, a heart of sacrificial care for those in need of justice, and a consciousness that would serve them in discerning the right choices to make within a status quo that is easy to fall in line with. His captivating speech on what it meant to truly be ‘educated’ tugged at the hearts of many young and critical minds striving to achieve their dreams and change the world.

35. Questioning the Universe by Stephen Hawking

“This brings me to the last of the big questions: the future of the human race. If we are the only intelligent beings in the galaxy, we should make sure we survive and continue. But we are entering an increasingly dangerous period of our history. Our population and our use of the finite resources of planet Earth are growing exponentially, along with our technical ability to change the environment for good or ill. But our genetic code still carries the selfish and aggressive instincts that were of survival advantage in the past. It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand or million. Our only chance of long-term survival is not to remain inward-looking on planet Earth, but to spread out into space. The answers to these big questions show that we have made remarkable progress in the last hundred years. But if we want to continue beyond the next hundred years, our future is in space. That is why I am in favor of manned — or should I say, personned — space flight.”

Extraordinary theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author Stephen Hawking was a considerable influence upon modern physics and scientific research at large, inspiring people regardless of physical ability to aspire towards expanding knowledge in the world. In his speech on Questioning the Universe, he speaks of the emerging currents and issues in the scientific world like that of outer space, raising and answering big questions that have stumped great thinkers for years.

36. 2008 Democratic National Convention Speech by Michelle Obama

“I stand here today at the crosscurrents of that history — knowing that my piece of the American dream is a blessing hard won by those who came before me. All of them driven by the same conviction that drove my dad to get up an hour early each day to painstakingly dress himself for work. The same conviction that drives the men and women I’ve met all across this country: People who work the day shift, kiss their kids goodnight, and head out for the night shift — without disappointment, without regret — that goodnight kiss a reminder of everything they’re working for. The military families who say grace each night with an empty seat at the table. The servicemen and women who love this country so much, they leave those they love most to defend it. The young people across America serving our communities — teaching children, cleaning up neighborhoods, caring for the least among us each and every day. People like Hillary Clinton, who put those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, so that our daughters — and sons — can dream a little bigger and aim a little higher. People like Joe Biden, who’s never forgotten where he came from and never stopped fighting for folks who work long hours and face long odds and need someone on their side again. All of us driven by a simple belief that the world as it is just won’t do — that we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be. That is the thread that connects our hearts. That is the thread that runs through my journey and Barack’s journey and so many other improbable journeys that have brought us here tonight, where the current of history meets this new tide of hope. That is why I love this country.”

Ever the favourite modern First Lady of America, Michelle Obama has delivered an abundance of iconic speeches in her political capacity, never forgetting to foreground the indomitable human spirit embodied in American citizens’ everyday lives and efforts towards a better world. The Obamas might just have been the most articulate couple of rhetoricians of their time, making waves as the first African American president and First Lady while introducing important policies in their period of governance.

37. The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

“I’m not talking about blind optimism here — the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don’t think about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about something more substantial. It’s the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker’s son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too. Hope — Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope! In the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation. A belief in things not seen. A belief that there are better days ahead.”

Now published into a book, Barack Obama’s heart-capturing personal story of transformational hope was first delivered as a speech on the merits of patriotic optimism and determination put to the mission of concrete change. He has come to be known as one of the most favoured and inspiring presidents in American history, and arguably the most skilled orators ever.

38. “Be Your Own Story” by Toni Morrison

“But I’m not going to talk anymore about the future because I’m hesitant to describe or predict because I’m not even certain that it exists. That is to say, I’m not certain that somehow, perhaps, a burgeoning ménage a trois of political interests, corporate interests and military interests will not prevail and literally annihilate an inhabitable, humane future. Because I don’t think we can any longer rely on separation of powers, free speech, religious tolerance or unchallengeable civil liberties as a matter of course. That is, not while finite humans in the flux of time make decisions of infinite damage. Not while finite humans make infinite claims of virtue and unassailable power that are beyond their competence, if not their reach. So, no happy talk about the future. … Because the past is already in debt to the mismanaged present. And besides, contrary to what you may have heard or learned, the past is not done and it is not over, it’s still in process, which is another way of saying that when it’s critiqued, analyzed, it yields new information about itself. The past is already changing as it is being reexamined, as it is being listened to for deeper resonances. Actually it can be more liberating than any imagined future if you are willing to identify its evasions, its distortions, its lies, and are willing to unleash its secrets.”

Venerated author and professor Toni Morrison delivered an impressively articulate speech at Wellesley College in 2004 to new graduates, bucking the trend by discussing the importance of the past in informing current and future ways of living. With her brilliance and eloquence, she blew the crowd away and renewed in them the capacity for reflection upon using the past as a talisman to guide oneself along the journey of life.

39. Nobel Speech by Malala Yousafzai

“Dear brothers and sisters, the so-called world of adults may understand it, but we children don’t. Why is it that countries which we call “strong” are so powerful in creating wars but so weak in bringing peace? Why is it that giving guns is so easy but giving books is so hard? Why is it that making tanks is so easy, but building schools is so difficult? As we are living in the modern age, the 21st century and we all believe that nothing is impossible. We can reach the moon and maybe soon will land on Mars. Then, in this, the 21st century, we must be determined that our dream of quality education for all will also come true. So let us bring equality, justice and peace for all. Not just the politicians and the world leaders, we all need to contribute. Me. You. It is our duty. So we must work … and not wait. I call upon my fellow children to stand up around the world. Dear sisters and brothers, let us become the first generation to decide to be the last. The empty classrooms, the lost childhoods, wasted potential-let these things end with us.”

At a mere 16 years of age, Malala Yousafzai gave a speech on the severity of the state of human rights across the world, and wowed the world with her passion for justice at her tender age. She displayed tenacity and fearlessness speaking about her survival of an assassination attempt for her activism for gender equality in the field of education. A model of courage to us all, her speech remains an essential one in the fight for human rights in the 21st century.

40. Final Commencement Speech by Michelle Obama

“If you are a person of faith, know that religious diversity is a great American tradition, too. In fact, that’s why people first came to this country — to worship freely. And whether you are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh — these religions are teaching our young people about justice, and compassion, and honesty. So I want our young people to continue to learn and practice those values with pride. You see, our glorious diversity — our diversities of faiths and colors and creeds — that is not a threat to who we are, it makes us who we are. So the young people here and the young people out there: Do not ever let anyone make you feel like you don’t matter, or like you don’t have a place in our American story — because you do. And you have a right to be exactly who you are. But I also want to be very clear: This right isn’t just handed to you. No, this right has to be earned every single day. You cannot take your freedoms for granted. Just like generations who have come before you, you have to do your part to preserve and protect those freedoms. … It is our fundamental belief in the power of hope that has allowed us to rise above the voices of doubt and division, of anger and fear that we have faced in our own lives and in the life of this country. Our hope that if we work hard enough and believe in ourselves, then we can be whatever we dream, regardless of the limitations that others may place on us. The hope that when people see us for who we truly are, maybe, just maybe they, too, will be inspired to rise to their best possible selves.”

Finally, we have yet another speech by Michelle Obama given in her final remarks as First Lady – a tear-inducing event for many Americans and even people around the world. In this emotional end to her political tenure, she gives an empowering, hopeful, expressive speech to young Americans, exhorting them to take hold of its future in all their diversity and work hard at being their best possible selves.

Amidst the bleak era of our current time with Trump as president of the USA, not only Michelle Obama, but all 40 of these amazing speeches can serve as sources of inspiration and hope to everyone – regardless of their identity or ambitions. After hearing these speeches, which one’s your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

Article Written By: Kai Xin Koh

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10 Famous Speeches That Shaped History

These powerful speeches continue to linger in the public imagination.


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The best speeches have left a mark on society for generations. They reshaped our world, held us accountable, and inspired us to rise against all odds and achieve great things. These speeches transcend time and place, offering wisdom that stirs souls long after the original speakers have been silenced.

A speech can be charismatic and still lack true meaning, but truly great oratories appeal to the audience's hearts, minds, and values. These speeches rise above the rest both because of the passion with which they were delivered, and the very words themselves. Here, we’ve rounded up eight powerful speeches that captured important historical moments and have proven unforgettable.

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“Ain’t I a Woman?”

Sojourner truth, 1851.

Born into slavery in 1797, Sojourner Truth became a well-known abolitionist and women’s rights activist. She delivered this powerful speech at the 1851 Women’s Rights Convention held in Akron, Ohio. In it, she laid bare the double standards facing Black women, who were often pushed to the side when it came to conversations about racism and sexism. Her speech received greater publicity during the Civil War, when several different versions were circulated by feminists and abolitionists.

Related: Deepen Your Knowledge of the Past With 8 of the Most Influential Books in History

“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman?”

“When They Go Low, We Go High”

Michelle obama, 2016.

Michelle Obama uttered her now-famous catchphrase at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, when speaking in support of Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency. She was referring to the importance of setting a good example for your children and the next generation by staying true to your values and not stooping to the level of those who would demean you. It's a message that's more important than ever in the age of Internet mud-slinging.

“Our motto is: when they go low, we go high. With every word we utter, with every action we take, we know our kids are watching us. We as parents are their most important role models. Let me tell you, Barack and I take that same approach to our jobs as President and First Lady because we know that our words and actions matter, not just to our girls but the children across this country.”

"I Have a Dream"

Dr. martin luther king jr., 1963.

One of the greatest speeches in American history is Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, which was delivered on August 28, 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. In it, he advocated for an end to racism in prose that continues to strike people’s hearts to this day.

Related: 16 Books About MLK That Reveal the Man Behind the Civil Rights Icon

King—a staunch social activist and Baptist minister—was arguably the most prominent leader of the American Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s. King's speech brought into focus the injustice of racial inequality and police brutality in America. He delivered this speech to over 250,000 civil rights supporters. By the mid-1960s, both the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were enacted in part due to King's words and actions.

"I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

The Farewell Address

George washington, 1796.

During George Washington’s time as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, and later as the first president of the United States, he wielded a lot of power. He could have managed to overtake control of the nation, much like the king from whom the fledgling nation was determined to break free, and the world was watching to see what would happen.

Related: General George Washington: Before the Presidency

Instead, his modest resignation from his post as the commander-in-chief of the American military in 1783 strengthened the foundation of the republic, and his refusal to accept a third term as president of the nation established a precedent that was later enshrined into law. In the now-famous farewell address that he penned when he stepped down from the presidency, Washington discussed the importance of unity and checks and balances, and warned against the dangers of political factions and despotism.

"However [political factions] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government..."

"Tear down this wall!"

Ronald reagan, 1987.

The Berlin Wall divided East and West Germany into two different nations; one ruled by democracy and one by communism. Echoing many leaders in the international community, President Ronald Reagan demanded that General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev aid in reunifying Germany.

Related: The Best Presidential Biographies For History Buffs

Reagan delivered his speech when the Cold War was at its peak, and his advisors feared his address would anger the Soviet leader. But the President gave his speech nonetheless. Reagan’s words received little attention at the time, but when the Cold War ended a few years later it became one of the most well-known speeches by an American president.

“General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

"I Am Prepared to Die"

Nelson mandela, 1964.

Nelson Mandela is one of the most controversial and loved figures in history. His speech " I Am Prepared to Die" defined South African democracy. Mandela delivered his three-hour-long address from the defendant dock to testify while addressing the charges that faced him as a result of his fight against South Africa's apartheid. Although his words did not save him from being convicted, his powerful speech struck the minds of the people listening, and it stimulated unrest in the South African people. 

Related: Recharge with 10 Books About Inspirational People

Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years, but his speech and courage were vital in demolishing the apartheid system in his country. He was later released in 1990, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, and became the country's first black head of state and the first leader to be elected in a fully representative democratic election.

"I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Address to The United Nations On the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Eleanor roosevelt, 1948.

As the wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt was America's First Lady for 12 years. She was described as a dedicated humanitarian and activist throughout her life. After the death of her husband, she was appointed the first U.S delegate to the United Nations by President Harry S. Truman. Eleanor Roosevelt achieved her life's most remarkable work when she drafted and presented the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

Related: The Fascinating Platforms of 10 First Ladies

The cruelties of World War II inspired the declaration, whose purpose was to ensure that such tragic human rights abuses would not happen again. The most translated document globally, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights lays out the rights and freedoms of all human beings. Roosevelt was instrumental in the adoption of the document, and she explained its significance in a passionate 1948 address to the United Nations.

“At a time when there are so many issues on which we find it difficult to reach a common basis of agreement, it is a significant fact that 58 states have found such a large measure of agreement in the complex field of human rights. This must be taken as testimony of our common lift men everywhere to a higher standard of life and to a greater enjoyment of freedom. Man’s desire for peace lies behind this Declaration.”

Inaugural Address

John f. kennedy, 1961.

On January 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th president of the United States. His pithy inaugural address on that day was well-written and meaningful, and it has become one of the most famous speeches by an American leader. JFK's speech was a call to service for the "new generation Americans - born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage." He issued a direct appeal to American citizens to stand up for their nation at the height of the Cold War and a time of great social change.

"And so, my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: Ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."

"We Shall Fight On The Beaches"

Winston churchill, 1940.

"We shall fight on the beaches" is the popular title given to the speech delivered by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to the House of Commons of the UK’s Parliament on June 4, 1940. He gave this speech around the time when Nazi Germany was invading many countries in Europe. In it, Churchill declared that British troops “shall go on to the end” in the face of Nazi aggression.

Related: Inspiring Winston Churchill Quotes That Will Help You Maintain a Stiff Upper Lip

With the threat of a Nazi invasion forthcoming, Churchill promised his nation would fight, alone if need be, and remain resilient. His words were designed to prompt a sense of security in the British people and inspire British troops, without which history would have been different. This strong speech was not just crucial for Churchill but also for the international stage, with America yet to enter the war.

“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender...”

Democratic National Convention Keynote Address

Barack obama, 2004.

Rising political star Barack Obama was just a candidate for the United States Senate when he gave the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention on July 27, 2004. However, his speech left a mark in the history of America. At the time, Obama was an upcoming politician gaining popularity in the state of Illinois.  His speech that day paved the way for him to become the first Black President of the United States. But why did his address have so much significance?

First of all, it was the quality of the writing, which Obama himself handled. Secondly, it was the message of the keynote address; he reminded Americans of what they had in common rather than their differences.

"Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us...Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America. There's not a Black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America."

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9 influential speeches that changed the world

From Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty, or give me death" to FDR's "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself," we have selected nine of our favorite speeches that have changed the world:

Napoleon Bonaparte — "Farewell to the Old Guard"

powerful speech history

After suffering several setbacks in the Napoleonic Wars, Napoleon was forced to abdicate his throne on April 6, 1814.

At the time of the abdication, he gave a speech praising his faithful soldiers and generals who had stuck by him:

Soldiers of my Old Guard: I bid you farewell. For twenty years I have constantly accompanied you on the road to honor and glory.

In these latter times, as in the days of our prosperity, you have invariably been models of courage and fidelity.

With men such as you our cause could not be lost; but the war would have been interminable; it would have been civil war, and that would have entailed deeper misfortunes on France.

I have sacrificed all of my interests to those of the country. 

Source: Speeches That Changed The World

Georges Jacques Danton — “Dare, Dare Again, Always Dare”

powerful speech history

Given during the tumult of the French Revolution, Danton urged his fellow French citizens to mobilize in order to push back the invading Prussian forces.

The speech was inspiring, but also chilling, as Danton pushed for those not supporting the war efforts to be put to death: 

 At such a moment this National Assembly becomes a veritable committee of war. We ask that you concur with us in directing this sublime movement of the people, by naming commissioners who will second us in these great measures.

We ask that any one refusing to give personal service or to furnish arms shall be punished with death. We ask that a set of instructions be drawn up for the citizens to direct their movements.

We ask that couriers be sent to all the departments to notify them of the decrees that you proclaim here. The tocsin we are about to ring is not an alarm signal; it sounds the charge on the enemies of our country.

To conquer them we must dare, dare again, always dare, and France is saved!

Giuseppe Garibaldi — Speech to his Soldiers

powerful speech history

In the mid 19th century, Giuseppe Garibaldi led a military movement to liberate the various Italian kingdoms from Austrian rule and create a unified modern nation of Italy.

Garibaldi gave this speech in 1860 to rally his troops for further action to unify the nation: 

To arms, then, all of you! all of you! And the oppressors and the mighty shall disappear like dust.

You, too, women, cast away all the cowards from your embraces; they will give you only cowards for children, and you who are the daughters of the land of beauty must bear children who are noble and brave.

Let timid doctrinaires depart from among us to carry their servility and their miserable fears elsewhere. This people is its own master.

It wishes to be the brother of other peoples, but to look on the insolent with a proud glance, not to grovel before them imploring its own freedom.

It will no longer follow in the trail of men whose hearts are foul. No! No! No!

Patrick Henry — "Liberty or Death"

powerful speech history

On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry stood and delivered a riveting speech to the Constitutional Congress in Richmond, Virginia. The speech had the impact of causing a resolution to narrowly pass the Congress that led to Virginia joining the American Revolution: 

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, "Peace! Peace!" -- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun!

The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms!

Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God!

I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!

Abraham Lincoln — "The Gettysburg Address"

powerful speech history

Delivered on November 19, 1863, the address was delivered at the Gettysburg cemetery. The speech was given at a ceremony dedicating the cemetery as the National Cemetery: 

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

We are met on a great battlefield of that war.

We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.

It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

Winston Churchill — "Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat"

powerful speech history

Upon first entering the British House of Commons as the Prime Minister, Churchill gave a speech rallying the country to war against Nazi Germany.

Delivered on May 13, 1940, the speech was a call-to-arms aimed at uniting the British public against the threat of the Nazis: 

I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined the government: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat."

We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime.

That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: victory; victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.

Franklin D. Roosevelt — First Inaugural Address

powerful speech history

Roosevelt delivered his First Inaugural Address on March 4, 1933 at the heart of the Great Depression in the US.

Speaking to the concerns of Americans throughout the country, Roosevelt sought to ease the fears of his citizens and highlight what the country would do to resuscitate the economy: 

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself --nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.

And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.

Watch the speech below:

Source: Speeches That Changed The World  

John F. Kennedy — Inaugural Address

powerful speech history

When taking the oath of office on January 20, 1961, Kennedy uttered perhaps one of the most famous lines in US political history.

Kennedy's speech was intended to inspire his audience and unite the USA against the threat of Communism: 

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility -- I welcome it.

I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow from that fire can truly light the world. And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Martin Luther King Jr — "I Have a Dream"

powerful speech history

Speaking on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, King gave one of the most famous speeches in US history on August 28, 1963. Imploring the nation to abandon its racial hatred, King shared in the speech his dream of the future of the nation: 

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

powerful speech history

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powerful speech history

The History Hit Miscellany of Facts, Figures and Fascinating Finds

6 of the Most Important Speeches in History

powerful speech history

Sarah Roller

07 oct 2020, @sarahroller8.

powerful speech history

What makes a good speech? Timing, content, humour, eloquence. But what makes a great speech, an important speech, an era-defining speech? This requires masterful oratory, the ability to convey a message with passion and emotion, one which those listening will not forget. A speech which inspires action and brings about change. We’ve rounded up six speeches in history which caused major changes, both in action and thought.

Pope Urban II – Speech at Clermont (1095)

The exact words spoken by Pope Urban II in November 1095 have been lost to history – several medieval writers have offered their versions, all varying somewhat. However, the impact of Pope Urban’s speech was monumental: the speech included the call to arms which launched the First Crusade .

Several versions of the speech use highly emotive language to refer to the ‘base and bastard Turks’ who ‘torture Christians’ and destroy churches. Whether or not Urban used words to this effect is unclear, but large swatches of men from across Europe took up the call to crusade, and embarked on treacherous journeys to the Middle East to fight in the name of Christendom.

powerful speech history

Frederick Douglass – What to the Slave is the 4 th of July? (1852)

One of the more poignant speeches in American history, Frederick Douglass was born a slave, but rose to prominence as an abolitionist. Addressing his audience on 5 th July, deliberately choosing the day after celebrations for American independence day, Douglass highlighted the injustice and hypocrisy of celebrating ‘independence’ whilst slavery was still legal.

It took another 13 years for the Emancipation Proclamation to finally be declared. Douglass’ speech was a hit, and printed copies of it were sold immediately after it was given, ensuring its circulation across the country. Today it can be seen as a powerful reminder of the injustices and contradictions in politics around the world.

powerful speech history

Frederick Douglass

Emmeline Pankhurst – Freedom or Death (1913)

  In 1903, Emmeline Pankhurst founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), determined to make progress on the issues of women’s suffrage after years of debates which had achieved nothing.

Delivered in Hartford, Connecticut in 1913 on a fundraising tour, Emmeline Pankhurst’s ‘Freedom or Death’ speech remains an incredibly powerful summary of the cause she dedicated her life to, as she highlighted why women were fighting for equality under the law, and why this battle had turned militant.

powerful speech history

  Winston Churchill – We Shall Fight on the Beaches (1940)

Churchill’s 1940 speech is widely considered to be one of the most iconic and rousing addresses of the Second World War . This speech was given to the House of Commons – at the time, it was not broadcast through any wider medium, and it was only eventually in 1949 that he made a recording, at the wishes of the BBC.

The speech itself was important – not just for Churchill, who had only recently been elected Prime Minister – but also because America was yet to enter the war. Churchill knew England needed a powerful ally, and his words were designed to elicit a sense of security in Britain’s absolute commitment and determination to win the war.

The lines ‘We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender’ have been quoted repeatedly since, and are seen by many to epitomise British “Blitz spirit”.

powerful speech history

Winston Churchill, in a picture nicknamed ‘The Roaring Lion’. Image credit: Public Domain

Mahatma Gandhi – Quit India (1942)

Given in 1942, on the eve of the Quit India movement, Gandhi’s speech called for Indian independence and set out his desire for committed passive resistance to British imperialism. By this point, India had already provided over 1 million soldiers to Allied powers, as well as large numbers of exports.

Gandhi’s speech saw the Indian National Congress agree that there should be a mass non-violent resistance movement against the British – resulting in the subsequent arrest of Gandhi and many other Congress members.

The ‘do or die’ nature of the speech, made on the eve of the movement which did eventually result in the 1947 Indian Independence Act, has cemented its place in history as one of the most importance speeches, particularly in terms of its political consequences.

powerful speech history

Studio photograph of Mohandas K. Gandhi, London, 1931. Image credit: Public Domain

Martin Luther King – I Have A Dream (1963)

Undoubtedly one of the most famous speeches in history, when Martin Luther King took to the podium in August 1963, he cannot have known exactly how powerful his words would prove. Speaking to a crowd of 250,000 at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C., King’s words have been echoed by those fighting for social justice across the world.

Moreover, the speech is full of allusions to biblical, literary, and historical texts, grounding King’s dream firmly in recognized and familiar rhetoric and stories. However, it was not just the words which made this speech so memorable – King’s skill as an orator ensured that the passion and urgency of his words were fully conveyed to his audience.


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HeinOnline Blog

HeinOnline Blog

The 15 most inspiring presidential speeches in american history.

  • By Tara Kibler
  • February 15, 2021
  • History , Political Science

Over the centuries, millions upon millions of words have been used by U.S. presidents to motivate, caution, reassure, and guide the American people. Whether written in the news, spoken at a podium, or shared on Twitter, all of these words have carried weight, each with the potential to impact the trajectory of our nation. Only a handful of times, however, has the particular arrangement and context of these words been considered truly inspiring.

This Presidents’ Day, join HeinOnline in rediscovering some of the greatest presidential speeches in American history using our   U.S. Presidential Library  and other sources.

1. Washington’s Farewell Address

Date:  September 17th, 1796

Context:  Toward the end of his second term as the first U.S. president, George Washington announced his retirement from office in a letter addressed to the American people. Though many feared for a United States without Washington, the address reassured the young nation that it no longer required his leadership. Washington also used the opportunity to offer advice for the prosperity of the country. After witnessing the growing division between the Federalist and Democratic-Republican parties, much of his advice was to warn against political parties, factions, and other animosities (domestic and foreign) that would eventually undermine the integrity and efficacy of the American government.

Notable Quote:  “This spirit [of party], unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind … [but] the disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

“Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it. It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions … A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.”

2. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

Date:  November 19, 1863

Context:  Four months after Union armies defeated Confederates at Gettysburg during the American Civil War, President Lincoln visited the site to dedicate the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. In what were intended to be brief, appropriate remarks for the situation, Lincoln used the moment to offer his take on the war and its meaning. The ten sentences he spoke would ultimately become one of the most famous speeches in American history, an inspiration for notable remarks centuries later, and even a foundation for the wording of other countries’ constitutions.

Notable Quote:  “… from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they heregave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that the dead shall not have died in vain; that the Nation shall under God have a new birth of freedom, and that Governments of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

3. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Inaugural Address

Date:  March 4, 1933

Context:  The inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt was held as the country was in the throes of the Great Depression, and as such, America anxiously awaited what he had to say. Roosevelt did not disappoint, offering 20 minutes of reassurance, hope, and promises for urgent action.

Notable Quote:  “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is … fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”

4. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s First Fireside Chat

Date:  March 12, 1933

Context:  Just a few days after his inauguration, Roosevelt instituted what he called “fireside chats,” using the relatively new technology of radio to enter the living rooms of Americans and discuss current issues. In these moments, he could speak at length, unfiltered and uninterrupted by the press, while also offering a reassuring, optimistic tone that might otherwise have been lost in the written word. In this first fireside chat, he crafted a message to explain the American banking process (and its current difficulties) in a way that the average listener could understand.

Notable Quote:  “Confidence and courage are the essentials of success in carrying out our plan. You people must have faith. You must not be stampeded by rumors or guesses. Let us unite in banishing fear. We have provided the machinery to restore our financial system, and it is up to you to support and make it work. It is your problem, my friends. Your problem no less than it is mine. Together, we cannot fail.”

5. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” Speech

Date:  January 6, 1941

Context:  By 1941, many affected by the Great Depression had experienced economic recovery, but another world-changing phenomenon had reared its head—Hitler and his Nazi regime. World War II was raging in Europe and the Pacific, but the United States had thus far remained largely neutral. In light of the atrocities occurring overseas, Roosevelt sought to change that. He crafted his State of the Union address that January to highlight four freedoms which are deserved by all humans everywhere. The “Four Freedoms” speech, as it was ultimately known, later became the basis for  America’s intervention in World War II  and significantly influenced American values, life, and politics moving forward.

Notable Quote:  “In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peace of time life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction, armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.”

6. Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” Speech

Date:  December 8, 1953

Context:  During World War II, Roosevelt formally authorized the Manhattan Project, a top-secret U.S. effort to weaponize nuclear energy. By 1945,  America had successfully created the atomic bomb , and President Truman had authorized its detonation in Japan’s Hiroshima and Nagasaki, leveling the two cities and killing hundreds of thousands of people. Following the end of World War II, political and economic differences between the United States and Soviet Union drove the two countries to another war soon after, but this time, the Soviet Union had their own atomic bomb as well. The world was teetering on a frightening ledge built by access to nuclear power, causing President Eisenhower to launch an “emotion management” campaign with this speech to the United Nations about the very real risks but also peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Notable Quote:  “… the whole book of history reveals mankind’s never-ending quest for peace and mankind’s God-given capacity to build. It is with the book of history, and not with isolated pages, that the United States will ever wish to be identified. My country wants to be constructive, not destructive. It wants agreements, not wars, among nations. It wants itself to live in freedom and in the confidence that the peoples of every other nation enjoy equally the right of choosing their own way of life. … The United States knows that if the fearful trend of atomic military build-up can be reversed, this greatest of destructive forces can be developed into a great boon, for the benefit of all mankind.”

7. Eisenhower’s Farewell Address

Date:  January 17, 1961

Context:  As he came to the end of his term, President Eisenhower found himself in a nation much stronger, much richer, and much more advanced than when he began. Prepared as early as two years in advance, his farewell address acknowledged the pride all should have in these achievements, but also served to ground the American people in sobering reality—that how the United States uses this power and standing will ultimately determine its fate. Like Washington, his address was one of caution against dangers such as massive spending, an overpowered military industry, and Federal domination of scientific progress (or vice versa, the scientific-technological domination of public policy). In all things, he stressed the need to maintain balance as the country moves forward, for the preservation of liberty.

Notable Quote:  “Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect. Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.”

8. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address

Date:  January 20, 1961

Context:  A few days after Eisenhower’s farewell speech, he turned over his office to the youngest-ever elected president, John F. Kennedy. Kennedy now found himself faced with the monumental task of strengthening the United States while also quelling American anxieties about the Cold War and avoiding nuclear warfare. His speech thus focused on unity, togetherness, and collaboration both domestically and abroad.

Notable Quote:  “In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility—I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it—and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”

9. Kennedy’s “We Choose to Go to the Moon” Speech

Date:  September 12, 1962

Context:  In the name of national security, the United States and USSR set their sights on spaceflight as a top priority during the Cold War. To the surprise (and fear) of people around the globe, the Soviet Union launched the first-ever artificial satellite in 1957, then sent the first human being into space in 1961, signaling to onlookers that its nation was a technological force to be reckoned with. Kennedy was determined to come up with a challenge in space technology that the United States actually stood a chance to win. In the early ’60s, he proposed that America focus on putting a man on the moon. In an uplifting speech at Rice University, Kennedy reminded his listeners of the country’s technological progress so far and of his administration’s determination to continue the pioneering spirit of early America into the new frontier of space.

Notable Quote:  “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

Read about America’s successful moon landing in this blog post.

10. Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society” Speech

Date:  May 22, 1964

Context:  Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as President in 1963, immediately following  Kennedy’s assassination . Johnson vowed to continue the former president’s work on poverty, civil rights, and other issues. Inspired in part by FDR’s New Deal, he devised a set of programs intended to completely eliminate poverty and racial injustice. In 1964, he formally proposed some specific goals in a speech to the University of Michigan, where he coined the lofty ideal of a “Great Society.”

Notable Quote:  “Your imagination, your initiative, and your indignation will determine whether we build a society where progress is the servant of our needs, or a society where old values and new visions are buried under unbridled growth. For in your time we have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society.”

11. Lyndon B. Johnson’s “We Shall Overcome” Speech

Date:  March 15, 1965

Context:  By the 1960s, blacks in areas of the Deep South found themselves disenfranchised by state voting laws, such as those requiring a poll tax, literacy tests, or knowledge of the U.S. constitution. Furthermore, these laws were sometimes applied subjectively, leading to the prevention of even educated blacks from voting or registering to vote. Inspired (and sometimes joined) by Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., protests were planned throughout the region. Eight days after racial violence erupted around one of these protests in Selma, Alabama, President Johnson addressed Congress to declare that “every American citizen must have an equal right to vote” and that discriminatory policies were denying African-Americans that right.

Notable Quote:  “What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and State of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life. Their cause must be our cause too. Because it’s not just Negroes, but really it’s all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome …

“This great, rich, restless country can offer opportunity and education and hope to all, all black and white, all North and South, sharecropper and city dweller. These are the enemies: poverty, ignorance, disease. They’re our enemies, not our fellow man, not our neighbor. And these enemies too—poverty, disease, and ignorance: we shall overcome.”

12. Reagan’s D-Day Anniversary Address

Date:  June 6, 1984

Context:  During World War II, the Allied forces attacked German troops on the coast of Normandy, France on June 6, 1944. A turning point for the war, the day came to be known as D-Day, and its anniversary is forever acknowledged. On its 40th anniversary, President Ronald Reagan honored the heroes of that day in a speech that also invoked a comparison of World War II’s Axis dictators to the Soviet Union during the ongoing Cold War. This reminder to the Allies that they once fought together against totalitarianism and must continue the fight now helped contribute to the ultimate dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Notable Quote:  “We look for some sign from the Soviet Union that they are willing to move forward, that they share our desire and love for peace, and that they will give up the ways of conquest. There must be a changing there that will allow us to turn our hope into action. We will pray forever that some day that changing will come. But for now, particularly today, it is good and fitting to renew our commitment to each other, to our freedom, and to the alliance that protects it. We are bound today by what bound us 40 years ago, the same loyalties, traditions, and beliefs. We’re bound by reality. The strength of America’s allies is vital to the United States, and the American security guarantee is essential to the continued freedom of Europe’s democracies. We were with you then; we are with you now. Your hopes are our hopes, and your destiny is our destiny.”

13. Reagan’s Berlin Wall Speech

Date:  June 12, 1987

Context:  With the fall of Nazi Germany at the end of World War II, Western powers and the Soviet Union sought to establish systems of government in their respective occupied regions. West Germany developed into a Western capitalist country, with a democratic parliamentary government, while East Germany became a socialist workers’ state (though it was often referred to as communist in the English-speaking world). Many experiencing hunger, poverty, and repression in the Soviet-influenced East Germany attempted to move west, with the City of Berlin their main point of crossing. Ultimately, the Soviet Union advised East Germany to build a wall on the inner German border, restricting movement and emigration by threat of execution for attempted emigrants. Seen as a symbol of Communist tyranny by Western nations, the Berlin Wall persisted for nearly three decades. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan visited West Berlin and called upon Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to take down the wall as a symbol of moving forward.

Notable Quote:  “We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

14. George W. Bush’s Post-9/11 Speech

Date:  September 11, 2001

Context:  On September 11, 2001, the United States experienced  the single worst terrorist attack in human history , where four American planes were hijacked and flown into American buildings, killing nearly 3,000 people. Viewers around the world watched the news as five stories of the Pentagon fell and the World Trade Center buildings collapsed entirely. Later that evening, President George W. Bush addressed the nation with a brief but powerful message that chose to focus not on fear, but on America’s strength in unity.

Notable Quote:

“These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong. A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve. America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining.”

15. Obama’s “More Perfect Union” Speech

Date:  March 18, 2008

Context:  While campaigning for the presidency in 2008, Barack Obama came under fire for his relationship with pastor Jeremiah Wright, who had been heard to denounce the United States and accuse the government of racial crimes. To officially address the relationship and condemn Wright’s inflammatory remarks, Obama crafted a speech that discussed the history of racial inequality in America as well as the dissonance between that history and America’s ideals of human liberty. Importantly, however, he also highlighted the necessity for a unified American people to effectively combat those issues, rather than more racial division.

Notable Quote:  “[T]he remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country—a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America ….

“[These] comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems—two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all ….

“The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through—a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.”

Read about Barack Obama’s presidency in this blog post.

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Frances Perkins’ Life of Service

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Primaries vs. Caucuses: How Presidential Nominees Are Chosen

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Decision in Trump’s Immunity Claim Now in HeinOnline

A three-judge panel dismissed Trump’s argument that he cannot be prosecuted because the allegations against him are tied to his official duties as president, denying him the ability to avoid a trial. This decision can be searched in HeinOnline.

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100 of the greatest speeches of the 20th century

100 greatest speeches of the 20th century.

The 20th century was one of the most varied, hopeful, and tumultuous in world history. From the Gilded Age to the beginning of the Internet Age—with plenty of stops along the way—it was a century punctuated by conflicts including two World Wars, the Cold War, the War in Vietnam, and the development of nuclear warfare. At the same time, the 20th century was characterized by a push for equality: Women in the United States received the right to vote after decades of activism, while the civil rights movement here ended the era of Jim Crow, inspired marginalized groups to take action, and introduced this country to great leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

Hundreds of people have used their voices along the way to heal, inspire, and enact change with speeches that helped to define these poignant moments in world history. Stacker has curated a list of 100 of the greatest speeches from the 20th century, drawing from research into great American speeches as determined by 137 scholars of American public address , as well as other historical sources. What follows is a gallery of speeches from around the U.S. and the world dealing with the most pressing issues of the day. Not all images show the speech event itself, but do feature the people who gave them.

Read on to discover which American author accepted his Nobel prize under protest and whether an American president accidentally called himself a jelly donut in German.

You may also like:  50 essential civil rights speeches

#100. Maya Angelou's "On the Pulse of Morning"

Delivered Jan. 20, 1993, in Washington D.C.

Maya Angelou, a longtime supporter of the Clinton family , became the second poet (after Robert Frost in 1961), and the first African American poet, to read at a presidential inauguration. She delivered "On the Pulse of Morning" directly after President Bill Clinton gave his first address, a poem that spanned the entire history of America and ended with a hopeful "Good morning." She won the Best Spoken Word Grammy for her performance, and a new audience was introduced to her previous work with the recognition she'd gained from the performance.

#99. Robert M. La Follette's "Free Speech in Wartime"

Delivered Oct. 6, 1917, in Washington D.C.

Wisconsin Senator Robert La Follette was one of just six Senators to oppose U.S. entry into World War I and, after war was declared, an antiwar speech he gave was misleadingly portrayed in the media. As Senators threatened to expel him from the legislative body, he launched a lengthy filibuster that concluded with his rousing defense of "Free Speech in Wartime." He decisively stated that free speech during times of war was not only necessary, but that "the first step toward the prevention of war and the establishment of peace, permanent peace, is to give the people who must bear the brunt of war's awful burden more to say about it." Not everyone in the Senate was convinced, and La Follette was under investigation for treason until the end of the war.

#98. Yasser Arafat's "Gun and Olive Branch"

Delivered Nov. 13, 1974, at the UN General Assembly, New York City, N.Y.

A divisive historical figure at the center of one of the most controversial conflicts, Yasser Arafat served as the Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization for nearly half a century. In 1974, he became the first non-voting member to speak in front of a plenary session of the United Nations. He declared, " Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter's gun . Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand." His "olive branch" appeal to peace in the long-running conflict affected the audience, slightly boosted public support for the Palestinians, and PLO  was granted observer status in the international body .

#97. Audre Lorde's "Uses of Anger" keynote address

Delivered June 1981, in Storrs, Conn.

Well-known as a poet, writer, feminist, and civil rights activist, Audre Lorde wasn't afraid to critique the second-wave feminism movement for its disregard for the different ways women of color, particularly black women, suffered under the patriarchy. "Uses of Anger" was her keynote speech at the National Women's Studies Association Conference, but in it, Lorde doesn't only express rage at men and the white feminists who silence those marginalized voices. She also declares , "And I am not free as long as one person of color remains chained. Nor is anyone of you." Here and throughout she echoes the language of more inclusive intersectional feminism but also portends the modern solidarity movements between minority groups we see today.

#96. Charles de Gaulle's "Appeal of June 18"

Broadcast June 18, 19, and 22, 1940, via BBC radio

By 1940, things weren't looking great for Allied powers fighting in Europe, and in June 1940, France, one of the last remaining military powers on the continent, fell to the Nazi army. Escaping the country before a complete Nazi takeover, General Charles de Gaulle declared himself the leader of Free France (based in London), and broadcast several messages calling for resistance in his home country. He knew that "the flame of French resistance must not and shall not die," and ultimately he was proved correct four years later when France was liberated from the Nazi party. He would later become President of the French Republic.

#95. Margaret Sanger's "The Children's Era"

Delivered March 30, 1925, in New York City, N.Y.

The founder of what today is Planned Parenthood, and one of America's most famous birth control advocates, has both the reason and experience to be concerned with the plight of the country's children. In this speech at the Sixth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference, Margaret Sanger uses the powerful imagery of turning the world into "a beautiful garden of children." This garden, she suggests, must be cultivated from a fetus' conception and lays out several criteria she thinks parents should be forced to meet before having children—echoing several eugenicist talking points popular before World War II.

#94. George C. Marshall's "Marshall Plan"

Delivered June 5, 1947, at Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Following World War II, the European continent was in shambles, and after failing to negotiate German reconstruction with the Soviet Union, the United States decided it couldn't wait for the USSR to get involved before stepping in. Secretary of State George Marshall doesn't necessarily outline the specifics of the plan that today bears his name, instead calling on European leaders to accept U.S. help to rebuild (and of course, stop the spread of Communism). American journalists were kept as far away from the speech as possible because the Truman administration feared Americans wouldn't like the plan. But it was delivered and later accepted by Europe.

#93. Corazon Aquino's "Speech Before the Joint Session of the United States Congress"

Delivered: Sept. 18, 1986, in Washington D.C.

Corazon Aquino transformed from a self-described "plain housewife" to the presidency of the Philippines after the assassination of her husband Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. He was outspoken about the dictatorial rule of President Ferdinand Marcos, and Corazon took up the mantle, becoming the face of the People Power Revolution that ultimately ousted Marcos and elevated Aquino to the presidency. In this speech, the newly installed president eloquently recalls her journey thus far and reaffirms her commitment to bringing democracy and prosperity to the Filipino people.

#92. Jimmy Carter's "Energy and National Goals: Address to the Nation"

Delivered: July 15, 1979, in Washington D.C.

Energy policy is one of the signature domestic achievements of the Carter administration , reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil and improving nuclear power in the U.S. However, President Carter's address on energy policy ended up being about more than those policies. Energy is the jumping-off point for those who have lost faith in government—who feel hopeless and fragmented. He tells these frightened people to "have faith in each other, faith in our ability to govern ourselves, and faith in the future of this nation," and that his energy policy is a start in the right direction for healing the nation.

#91. Eva Perón's "Renunciation of the Vice Presidency of Argentina"

Delivered Aug. 31, 1951, on Argentine radio

Immortalized by the people of Argentina, a Broadway musical, and a movie starring Madonna, Eva "Evita" Perón climbed from a childhood of poverty to First Lady when her husband Juan Perón became president in 1946 with the help of her campaigning. She was active as First Lady, helping women earn the right to vote, furthering her husband's Perónist movement, and meeting with the poor. She became something of a celebrity in the country, and in 1951 she announced her candidacy for the vice presidency alongside her husband, to the delight of the poor and working-class citizens she dedicated her time to. Their joy was short-lived; cancer left Perón unable to run for office, as she announces in this speech .

#90. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn's "Statement at the Smith Act Trial"

Delivered April 24, 1952, in New York City, N.Y.

The Smith Act Trial swept up huge numbers of Communist Party members and put them on trial for allegedly trying to overthrow the U.S. government. American Communist Party leader and co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, was one of those. She represented herself, made an impassioned statement to the court about her communist beliefs, and argued that she was not, as a communist, advocating for the fall of the government. Despite her remarks, she was found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison.

#89. Ronald Reagan's "Speech on the Challenger Disaster"

Delivered: Jan. 28, 1986, via TV broadcast

The explosion of the Challenger Shuttle just seconds after took  off into the sky left seven people dead, including a civilian school teacher, on the same day that President Reagan was to give the State of the Union. Instead, he called in a young speechwriter, Peggy Noonan , to write a new speech that would help the nation process the tragedy they had seen broadcast on live TV. Reagan's speech is lauded even today for its careful balance between honoring the dead while reminding listeners of the importance of exploring the vast and unknown reaches of space, a quest for exploration for which the Challenger astronauts died.

#88. Elizabeth Glaser's "Address at the 1992 Democratic National Convention"

Delivered July 14, 1992, in New York City

Elizabeth Glaser contracted HIV early in the AIDS epidemic after receiving a contaminated transfusion while giving birth; she passed it on to both her children either through breastmilk or in utero. After her daughter passed away at age seven from AIDS, Glasner and two friends started the Pediatric AIDS Foundation, and this activism led to her invitation to speak at the DNC in 1992. There, she described the issue as "not politics" but a "crisis of caring" that led the Republican administration to fail to tackle the AIDS crisis, and she called out Democrats as well to do better. She passed away from complications of the disease two years later.

#87. Theodore Roosevelt's "The Man with the Muckrake"

Delivered April 14, 1906, in Washington D.C.

Investigative journalism was booming in the first decade of the 20th century, as Progressive Era muckraking writers continued to publicize injustices to the country. These journalists had one powerful enemy: President Theodore Roosevelt, as he disliked writers who focused on bad things at the exclusion of all the good that was happening. His speech didn't call for these journalists to stop their practices of uncovering corrupt businessmen but reminded writers that their work affects public outlook and opinion, so only focusing on the worst moments could have a negative impact on the fabric of the nation.

#86. Richard Nixon's "The Great Silent Majority"

Delivered Nov. 3, 1969, in Washington D.C.

Richard Nixon was sworn into office in January 1969 after a wave of anti-Vietnam protests across the country left opposition to the war at a peak. Eleven months after he took office, Nixon gave an Oval Office speech that made clear he believed those protesting the war didn't demonstrate what most Americans actually thought about Vietnam—their opinions were just louder. He called on "the great silent majority of Americans" watching to support him in his decision. It was a gamble, but it paid off as Nixon's approval ratings shot up overnight and popularized the use of the term "silent majority," which is still used in politics today .

#85. John F. Kennedy's "Ich Bin Ein Berliner"

Delivered June 26, 1963, in West Berlin, Germany

Huge crowds thronged around the stage where President John F. Kennedy threw away the speech written by his advisers designed not to offend the Soviet Union and instead read one he'd written himself. The president demonstrated his solidarity with the citizens of the divided city by declaring, "Ich bin ein Berliner," or essentially, "I'm a citizen of Berlin in spirit." (For those who may be wondering, it's a popular myth, but JFK did not accidentally call himself a jelly donut when he called himself a Berliner.) Those who saw the speech in West Berlin, as well as those who watched it around the globe, were inspired.

#84. Rachel Carson's "A New Chapter in Silent Spring"

Delivered Jan. 8, 1963, in New York City, N.Y.

In the '60s and '70s, environmentalism sprang up as a social justice organization inspired by the civil rights movement. A seminal text was Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring," which detailed the effects of the harmful pesticide DDT. In a speech to the Garden Club of America after her book's publication, Carson discusses the importance of raising public awareness of environmental issues, the next steps for those against pesticides, and new environmental dangers emerging on the horizon.

#83. Dwight Eisenhower's "Atoms for Peace"

Delivered Dec. 8, 1953, at the UN General Assembly, New York City, N.Y.

The development of nuclear warfare gave the Cold War higher stakes and led to fears of a potential nuclear holocaust should something go wrong. In his "Atoms for Peace" speech before the UN, Eisenhower admitted that he needed to speak in a " new language...the language of atomic warfare ," and for the first time let the public know what the atomic age actually meant. Ultimately, the speech demonstrated the need for nuclear disarmament due to its destructive power; at the same time, the huge danger offered the U.S. an excuse to continue the arms race with the USSR after the Soviets refused to disarm.

#82. Eugene V. Debs' "Statement to the Court"

Delivered Sept. 18, 1918, in Girard, Kan.

Eugene V. Debs ran for president five times as a candidate for the Socialist Party but ran his final campaign in 1920 from a prison cell. Debs made an enemy of President Woodrow Wilson for his repeated speeches denouncing U.S. entry into World War I and was arrested on 10 charges of sedition. At his trial, Debs was granted permission to testify on his own behalf; the two-hour speech is remembered for its beautiful passages that moved even people who did not support him, such as in his concluding call for listeners everywhere to "take heart of hope, for the cross is bending, the midnight is passing, and joy cometh with the morning." He was sentenced to a decade in prison but only served a few years before his sentence was commuted.

#81. Margaret Chase Smith's "Declaration of Conscience"

Delivered June 1, 1950, in Washington D.C.

Joseph Welch ultimately took down Joseph McCarthy during a 1953 trial investigating communism in the Army, but he was far from the first person to attempt to end the Senator's red-scare fearmongering. Senator Margaret Chase of Maine took aim at him from the Senate to the House floor four months after he became a national figure, with a speech that endorsed " the right to criticize, the right to hold unpopular beliefs, the right to protest, [and] the right of independent thought " as fundamental to American democracy. She was joined by six other moderate Republican Senators in her rebuke, and some publications praised her for taking a stand while others dismissed her concerns. It wasn't until 1954 that the rest of the Senate took her side and formally censured McCarthy .

#80. Gloria Steinem's "Testimony Before Senate Hearings on the Equal Rights Amendment"

Delivered May 6, 1970, in Washington D.C.

While Shirley Chisholm's speech on the Equal Rights Amendment emphasized all the change its passage would bring, Gloria Steinem—a feminist, activist, and journalist—focused on the sex-based myths that she saw as the root of these problems. Among other myths she took down during her testimony, Steinem cited science that proves men aren't biologically superior to women, points out that discrimination keeps women and African Americans from pursuing their dreams as fully as possible, and noted that men, women, and children all benefit when women are treated more equally in the family.

#79. Barbara Bush's "Choices and Change" commencement address

Delivered June 1, 1990, at Wellesley College, Wellesley, Mass.

Unlike most commencement addresses, all three major news networks interrupted their coverage to carry First Lady Barbara Bush's speech to Wellesley College live. Students were unhappy after Bush had replaced author Alice Walker after she withdrew as the speaker, but the First Lady silenced even her most fervent protestors when she showed up with the First Lady of the USSR, Raisa Gorbachev. The speech itself addressed student criticism head-on and exhorted all students, no matter their goals, to prioritize relationships above all .

#78. Lyndon B. Johnson's "The Great Society"

Delivered May 22, 1964, at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.

This speech launched President Lyndon Johnson's ambitious domestic policy agenda and outlined exactly what he meant by a "Great Society." He defined it as "[demanding] an end to poverty and racial injustice," a place where all children can be educated, and "a challenge constantly renewed." Though the rhetoric in the speech is so sweeping it seems impossible to live up to, Johnson's list of accomplishments is long . He signed the Civil Rights Act, integrated schools, started Medicare, gave federal aid to K-12 schools and created federally backed college loans.

#77. Ronald Reagan's "Address at the U.S. Ranger Monument on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day"

Delivered June 6, 1984, in Pointe du Hoc, France

The title of Ronald Reagan's eloquent D-Day memorial address provides a bland package for the stirring—and at times chilling—speech he gave in honor of the storming of Normandy four decades prior. Reagan spoke of the Rangers that climbed the cliffs, remarking that "when one...fell, another would take his place." The focus, however, did not remain on how the men who died there passed away, but rather on the convictions that drove them; speaking directly to the men who died, Reagan praised them : "You all knew that some things are worth dying for...democracy is worth dying for, because it's the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man."

#76. Emma Goldman's "Address to the Jury"

Delivered July 9, 1917, in New York City, N.Y.

A Russian-born feminist and anarchist , Emma Goldman went around the country delivering speeches supporting free speech, birth control, women's rights, labor's right to organize, and other progressive causes. In 1917, she and fellow radical Alexander Berkman were arrested for organizing the anti-war No Conscription League because it encouraged men not to register for a draft. At her trial, Goldman invoked the First Amendment , and like many other free speech advocates at the time, pointed out that "if America has entered the war to make the world safe for democracy, she must first make democracy safe in America" by safeguarding free speech protections. The jury was not convinced, and both were found guilty.

#75. Edward Kennedy's "Eulogy for Robert F. Kennedy"

Delivered June 8, 1968, at St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York City, N.Y.

Within a decade, Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy lost both his brothers to assassination, first President John F. Kennedy in 1963, then Robert "Bobby" Kennedy in 1968, whom he eulogized three days later. His heart-wrenching speech pulled together the past, present, and future , deftly weaving together Bobby's writings, the grief of his family and the nation over his brother's death, and his own vision for the future.

#74. Mario Savio's "Bodies Upon the Gears"

Delivered Dec. 2, 1964, in Berkeley, Calif.

Mario Savio was a student leader during the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, which worked to end the school's restriction on students' political speech. Known for his fiery speeches, Savio delivered his most famous one during a sit-in at Sprout Hall, advocating for civil disobedience: "There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part! ... And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels...and you've got to make it stop." This inspired hundreds to occupy an administrative building overnight , and they continue to inspire countercultural and anti-government movements around the world.

#73. Jesse Jackson's "1984 Democratic National Convention"

Delivered July 18, 1984, in San Francisco, Calif.

Perhaps one of the biggest shifts in 20th-century politics was the "great reversal" of each political party's key constituencies: White Southerners became overwhelmingly Republican while black voters abandoned the party of Lincoln in favor of the Democratic presidents who worked to pass civil rights legislation. In the '80s, Democrats thought they should pivot back to the whites who'd abandoned the party, but civil rights leader Jesse Jackson's 1984 DNC address proposed an alternative: build a "rainbow coalition" that "makes room" for diversity, including black, Latino, young, Native American, environmentalist, activist, union, and LGBTQ+ voters. The strategy seems to have worked, if the diversity of the candidates for the 2020 Democratic nomination is any indication.

#72. John L. Lewis, "Labor and the Nation"

Delivered Sept. 2, 1937, in Washington D.C.

Powerful unions like the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations—whose founding president was John L. Lewis —emerged in the 1920s and '30s. Lewis' speech lays out the long, occasionally bloody history of unions that brought them to this point and argues that the labor movement's fight for "peace with justice" shouldn't be seen as communist and should be supported by the people. It seems his speech fell on deaf ears, as unions were  significantly weakened in the 1970s and have been on the decline since .

#71. Margaret Sanger's "The Morality of Birth Control"

Delivered Nov. 18, 1921, at Park Theatre, New York

Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was one of the most outspoken advocates for every man and woman's right to access birth control and take control of their own family planning. In this speech, she argues that it is not immoral, as some claim, but rather that it's moral for children to be desired and that motherhood should " be the function of dignity and choice ." (She also argues that disabled and impoverished people might not be fit parents, echoing eugenicist ideas of the time , but her fundamental argument is a woman's right to choose.) Open access to birth control for married and unmarried couples wouldn't be realized until the 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut Supreme Court decision established a constitutional right to privacy over reproductive choices.

#70. Shirley Chisholm, "For the Equal Rights Amendment"

Delivered Aug. 10, 1970, in Washington D.C.

Versions of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which would enshrine women's equality into the Constitution, have been proposed since women earned the right to vote, but it didn't take off until the second-wave feminist movement began to push for its passage. Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman in Congress, delivered an eloquent defense of the ERA in the face of arguments that its passage would do nothing to change sexist attitudes. It passed the Senate two years later but was never ratified by enough states—just one more state needs to do so for it to become law .

#69. Edward Kennedy's "Faith, Truth, and Tolerance in America"

Delivered Oct. 3, 1983, at Liberty Baptist College, Lynchburg, Va.

Polls from the 2018 midterms stuck to a trend that's been evident for decades: White Christians, particularly evangelical Protestants, overwhelmingly vote Republican. The rise of the evangelical or "religious" right in the 1970s, and America's increasing polarization, led to this point, but Senator Edward Kennedy's address at the evangelical Liberty University suggested it didn't have to be this way. The devoutly Catholic Kennedy argued that no one's "convictions about religion should command any greater respect than any other faith in this pluralistic society," leading to a robust separation of church and state . The connection between Americans is not, he suggests, a shared faith but rather " individual freedom and mutual respect ."

#68. Mary Church Terrell's "What It Means to Be Colored in the Capital of the United States"

Delivered Oct. 10, 1906, in Washington D.C.

A trailblazer half a century before the full force of the civil rights movement, Mary Church Terrell was one of the first African American women to earn a college degree. She spent her life working in the D.C. education system and the fight for black women's rights. Her hallmark speech detailed the discrimination and racism she and other African Americans experienced in the nation's capital and called on white listeners to realize the impact this oppression has on the future of black people living in D.C. and across the country.

#67. Winston Churchill's "Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat"

Delivered May 13, 1940, at the House of Commons, London, England

Winston Churchill replaced Neville Chamberlain as British Prime Minister following Chamberlain's failed attempts to prevent war with Nazi Germany through appeasement. Churchill wasn't an immediately obvious choice as his successor , as his reputation left him with few friends in Parliament, but he was the only man with enough experience willing to take on the job in the middle of a war. In his first speech to Parliament , he offered only his "blood, toil, tears, and wage war against [the] monstrous tyranny" that was Nazi Germany. The sentiment won him the support of skeptics in Parliament and was the first in a trio of speeches that unified the country in the early years of the war.

#66. Wilma Mankiller's "On Rebuilding the Cherokee Nation"

Delivered April 2, 1993, in Sweet Briar, Va.

An activist from her early days, Wilma Mankiller became the first woman to be Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation after decades of community organizing. In her speech at Sweet Briar , Mankiller infuses her story with wry humor and keen insight while at the same time, with gravity, narrating the history of the Cherokee tribe and the deadly removals they faced at the hands of the U.S. government. Mankiller emphasizes trying to rebuild the community that endured within the Cherokee Nation despite all the removals. This theme was made all the more powerful when you remember that Native American children  were separated from their communities and forced into assimilationist boarding schools up through the 1970s.

#65. Russell Conwell's "Acres of Diamonds"

Delivered from 1900 to 1925, in multiple locations across the U.S.

The American Dream and the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" school of thought were  popularized in the Gilded Age , creating an ideology of success that proposes any person in the country can succeed, no matter their circumstance, as long as they work hard. Russell Conwell, a former minister, ushered this school of thought into the 20th century with the "Acres of Diamonds" speech, which claims it is "your duty to get rich," and, in general, that impoverished people are unsympathetic because it was their own shortcomings that got them there.

#64. Ellen DeGeneres' "Vigil for Matthew Shepard"

Delivered Oct. 14, 1998, in Washington D.C.

In 1997, Ellen DeGeneres came out, as did the character on her sitcom (becoming the first LGBTQ+ lead on a TV show), paving the way for more LGBTQ+ representation in Hollywood. The following year, Matthew Shepard's murder sent shock waves through the LGBTQ+ community, evident in the angry, tearful speech DeGeneres gave at a celebrity vigil. She called out the hypocrisy of the church and framed Shepard's murder as "a wake-up call" for straight allies "to help us end the hate" and "raise your children with love and non-judgment." Already emerging as a spokesperson for LGBTQ+ rights, she gave voice to the rage and heartbreak many in the community, and across the nation, felt in the wake of the brutal anti-gay hate crime.

#63. Harry Truman's "Statement by the President Announcing the Use of the A-Bomb at Hiroshima"

Delivered Aug. 6, 1945, via radio address

On Aug. 6, 1945, modern warfare changed forever when the atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. In a radio address to the nation announcing both the development of atomic-bomb technology and the attack, President Harry Truman announced "let there be no mistake; we shall completely destroy Japan's power to make war" using the atomic bomb. Three days later, a bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, decisively ending the war in the Pacific.

#62. Harold Ickes' "What Is an American?"

Delivered May 1941, in Central Park, New York City, N.Y.

In this speech, Harold Ickes, Secretary of the Interior during the Roosevelt Administration, asks a question that we're still grappling with in one way or another today . Here, Ickes answers the question to advocate for American involvement in World War II, bemoaning the loss of America's "vaunted idealism" . He characterizes an American as someone who "loves justice," "will fight for his freedom" and "in whose heart is engraved the immortal second sentence of the Declaration of Independence." Ickes appeals to these ideals to establish the necessity of fighting the Nazi threat to democracy; however, the bombing of Pearl Harbor a few months later is ultimately what pulled the U.S. into the war.

#61. Golda Meir's "Speech That Made Possible a Jewish State"

Delivered Jan. 2, 1948, in Chicago, Ill.

As the fight between Israelis and Palestinians intensified over the land to form the Jewish state of Israel, David Ben-Gurion (who would become Israel's first Prime Minister) sent Golda Meir (who would become the third) to America to ask for money to finance the fighting from the American Jewish community. The speech, first delivered in Chicago , then across the U.S., appealed to a sense of unity within the community, suggesting that "if you were in Palestine and we were in the United States," the American Jewish community would do the same thing they did. She then asked for between $25 and $30 million to continue the fight; she returned home with $50 million to finance the effort.

#60. Rigoberta Menchú's "Nobel Peace Prize Lecture"

Delivered Dec. 10, 1992, in Oslo, Norway

Rigoberta Menchú is a fierce advocate for the rights of indigenous people, stemming from racism she's experienced in her home country and the violence that caused her to flee her home. She told her story that resulted in the book, "I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala," which shaped her into a spokeswoman for indigenous rights in the Western Hemisphere. She makes her universal message clear  in her Nobel Lecture , in which she declares her prize "constitutes a sign of hope in the struggle of the indigenous people in the entire Continent."

#59. Robert F. Kennedy's "On the Death of Martin Luther King"

Delivered April 4, 1968, in Indianapolis, Ind.

Brother to John F. Kennedy and candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, Robert F. Kennedy was at a campaign stop in Indiana when news came that Martin Luther King had been shot while marching with striking sanitation workers. His death would lead to marches and protests across the country but when RFK announced the death in Indianapolis, no violence broke out . Instead, in this short and powerful speech, Kennedy empathizes with those hurt by King's death, connecting it with his own brother's murder, and calls for unity and compassion in honor of King's legacy.

#58. Indira Gandhi's "What Educated Women Can Do"

Delivered Nov. 23, 1973, in New Delhi, India

Daughter of India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and the world's longest-serving female PM, Indira Gandhi had the kind of education that most Indian girls would never dream of receiving, especially in the 1930s and 40s. However, her own story doesn't figure into her famous speech on women's education, instead focusing on the need for more scientifically educated people , both men and women, so the country could achieve great things and become truly modern.

#57. Tony Blair's "Address to the Irish Parliament"

Delivered Nov. 26, 1998, in Dublin, Ireland

The relationship between Britain and Ireland had been characterized by centuries of colonialism and violence, culminating in the partition of Ireland and later the Troubles, decades of intense violence between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The two sides had made peace with the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. British Prime Minister Tony Blair's address to the Irish Parliament a few months later marked the first time a British PM addressed an Irish parliament and affirmed that healing had begun and more could be accomplished by both nations when "our voices speak in harmony."

#56. Richard Nixon's "Checkers"

Delivered Sept. 23, 1952, via television broadcast

This speech, delivered when Nixon was a candidate for Vice President, might be named after the Nixon family dog, but the actual subject proves slightly less adorable. In it, Nixon used a television broadcast to directly answer accusations that he'd used political contributions to pay for personal expenses. He denied the allegations, laid out his financial history and proved his political intelligence by turning the question to the Democrats, asking their candidate to do the same. But what about Checkers the dog? Apparently, she was the only political contribution the Nixon's kept.

#55. Nelson Mandela's "Free at Last"

Delivered May 2, 1994, in Pretoria, South Africa

Decades earlier, Nelson Mandela made a name for himself for his anti-apartheid speech while on trial in Pretoria; now, after 27 years in prison, apartheid had officially ended and Mandela had become South Africa's first democratically elected president. "Free at last" is a reference to a Dr. Martin Luther King speech , showing how closely connected the anti-apartheid and civil rights movement were, though the two leaders never met. The speech emphasizes both the joy of the moment and continued work needed to build " a better life for all South Africans ."

#54. Nikita Khrushchev's "The Cult of the Individual"

Delivered Dec. 5, 1956, in Moscow, Russia

Very few men in the Soviet Union dared insult or question Joseph Stalin, a man who ordered the deaths of millions of his own people , including political rivals. It wasn't until after his death that his successor, Nikita Khrushchev, was willing to say that elevating an individual and worshiping a cult of personality went against the kind of communism that Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin espoused—the communism that formed the foundation of the Soviet Union's political philosophy. Khrushchev's denunciation of his predecessor shocked the world and offered the first thorough account of Stalin's crimes, but his motivations for giving the speech remain unclear.

#53. Franklin D. Roosevelt's "First Inaugural Address"

Delivered March 4, 1933, in Washington D.C.

President Franklin Roosevelt is lauded for guiding the United States through the thick of World War II, but upon first taking office, he was facing down a different kind of war: the one against the Great Depression. When FDR assumed office, the Depression was at its peak, with almost a quarter of the working population unemployed . His inauguration address emphasizes the enormous scale of the project it would take to rebuild the nation; still, he famously invigorated everyone listening by declaring that "  the only thing we have to fear is fear itself ."

#52. Betty Friedan's "Farewell to the National Organization of Women"

Delivered Mar. 20, 1970, in Chicago, Ill.

Betty Friedan's best-selling book, "The Feminine Mystique," got women talking about "the problem with no name" and is often credited with helping spark second-wave feminism. Her voice continued to have power even as she stepped down as president from the National Organization of Women. That day, she called for a general women's strike to be held on Aug. 26, 1970. Despite skepticism from media outlets, thousands of women heeded Friedan's call and took to the street that day—a physical manifestation of the feminist movement's enduring power.

#51. Malcolm X's "Message to the Grassroots"

Delivered on Nov. 10, 1963, in Detroit, Mich.

The divisions between the civil rights movement become obvious in "Message to the Grassroots," which contrasted the "Negro revolution" which was nonviolent and ineffectual, and the "black revolution," which was necessarily violent and had proved itself effective across Africa . This stands alongside the powerful but historically flawed distinction he makes between the self-hating "house slaves" loyal their white owners and "field slaves" as illustrative of X's criticism of black activists whom he thought were too eager to acquiesce to the white people whose oppression the movement was trying to overcome.

#50. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Beyond Vietnam: Breaking the Silence"

Delivered on April 4, 1967, in New York City, N.Y.

Though today Martin Luther King is revered by nearly all Americans as a powerful spokesman for equal rights and integration, not every political opinion was popular among the American public. Exactly one year before he was assassinated, King spoke out against the Vietnam War. He accused America of ignoring conflicts at home in favor of war abroad, pointing out the "cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools." Delivered several years before popular opinion on the war changed, King lost many of the powerful allies in government and media due to this speech .

#49. Bill Clinton's "Oklahoma Bombing Memorial Prayer Service Address"

Delivered April 23, 1992, in Oklahoma City, Okla.

Before President Bill Clinton became the nation's "consoler-in-chief" during Columbine, he had to face a nation mourning the 168 people killed in the Oklahoma City Bombing by two domestic terrorists angry about the FBI raid in Waco, Texas. The speech he gave at the memorial service reminded those who had lost loved ones that they "have not lost everything" because they "have certainly not lost America, for we will stand with you for as many tomorrows as it takes" to heal from the tragedy. The sentiment struck a chord with the American public, evident in the boosting of Clinton's poll numbers after the speech.

#48. Nora Ephron's "Commencement Address to the Wellesley Class of 1996"

Delivered June 3, 1996, in Wellesley College, Wellesley, Mass.

Commencement speeches are usually uplifting addresses to graduating seniors looking to inspire them before they begin the next chapter of their lives. Journalist, filmmaker, and writer Nora Ephron returned to her alma mater, Wellesley College, to discuss all the ways the world had changed for the better since she graduated but also offered a note of warning for the grads. "Don't underestimate how much antagonism there is toward women and how many people wish we could turn the clock back," she remarked , listing off current events that reminded the Wellesley graduates that feminism was still urgently needed at the close of the 20th century.

#47. Barbara C. Jordan's "Statement on the Articles of Impeachment"

Delivered: July 25, 1974, in Washington D.C.

As a newly minted State Senator in Texas, Barbara Jordan won over segregationists to pass an equal rights amendment in the state and became a hugely popular political figure in her state. She was elected to the House of Representatives in 1973 just as the Watergate investigation was heating up, and there she gave a rousing political speech subtly advocating for the president's impeachment. Grounding her argument in the Constitution, she called on her fellow House members to use "reason, and not passion" to "guide our deliberations, guide our debate, and guide our decision" as she just adeptly demonstrated.

#46. General Douglas MacArthur's "Farewell Address to Congress"

Delivered April 19, 1951, in Washington D.C.

President Harry Truman and five-star general Douglas MacArthur had a combative relationship, which heated up after the President relieved him of command of UN forces in the Korean War for insubordination. General MacArthur's speech before a joint session of Congress questioned Truman's decision not to take on China in the war, commenting that "War's very object is victory, not prolonged indecision." He received 50 standing ovations during the address while Truman's approval rating plummeted after firing a popular general and World War II hero.

#45. Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's Own" lectures

Delivered October 20 and 26, 1928, at Cambridge University, Cambridge, England

English author Virginia Woolf's lectures at the women's college at Cambridge are not remembered as stirring works of oratory, but rather as a book. "A Room of One's Own" is a foundational piece of feminist literary theory adapted from this pair of lectures that examines the different types of marginalization women have faced throughout history and the impact on their creative productivity. Among other things,  she posits that in order for women to write literature , they need a "room of one's own" or a private space and financial independence in order to write well—a revolutionary claim in late-1920s Europe.

#44. Joseph Welch's "Have You No Sense of Decency?" testimony

Delivered June 9, 1953, in Washington D.C.

Though not technically a speech, the exchange between Senator Joseph McCarthy and Joseph Welch, a lawyer hired by the U.S. Army, proved to be the final blow in the Wisconsin Senator's fall from grace . McCarthy had been conducting trials of suspected Communists since 1950 and everyone was beginning to tire of his methods. A heated back-and-forth erupted between the two men when McCarthy questioned whether one of the lawyers at Welch's firm had Communist ties, leading Welch to ask heatedly McCarthy, "Have you no sense of decency, sir?" With these famous lines, Senator McCarthy saw the last of his power evaporate and died three years later.

#43. Carrie Chapman Catt's "The Crisis"

Delivered Sept. 7, 1916, in Atlantic City, N.J.

Carrie Chapman Catt was a leading figure in the late stages of the American women's suffrage movement, founding the International Women's Suffrage Alliance and serving as president of the National American Women's Suffrage Association during the final push to pass the 19th Amendment. In "The Crisis," Catt outlines her plan to make pushing for a federal amendment to the Constitution NAWSA's priority. At the same time, she tied their fight for the vote to World War I in Europe and the broader fight for women's rights around the world. Ultimately, her instinct to focus on federal legislation instead of working state-by-state proved correct; white women gained the right to vote just three years after this address.

#42. Lyndon B. Johnson's "We Shall Overcome"

Delivered March 15, 1965, in Washington D.C.

One of the most stirring pieces of American rhetoric was written  by a hungover speechwriter in just eight hours , after President Lyndon B. Johnson decided he wanted to address Congress about the "Bloody Sunday" attacks against protestors in Selma, Ala. In it, Johnson called on all of America to join him in the cause of civil rights. He appealed specifically to white Americans, noting that "it's not just Negroes, but really it's all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome." The speech was interrupted for applause 40 times and brought civil rights activists to tears. And overcome they did; five months later, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act.

#41. Geraldine Ferraro's "Vice Presidential Nomination Acceptance Address"

Delivered July 19, 1984, in San Francisco, Calif.

In her concession speech in 2016, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton noted that women have yet to shatter the "highest and hardest glass ceiling" of the American presidency or vice presidency. Very few have come close, the first being Geraldine Ferraro, Walter Mondale's VP pick in the 1984 campaign. In her acceptance speech, Ferraro demonstrates her adeptness as a politician, weaving critiques of the Reagan administration together with her career as an avid activist for women's rights. Though they would ultimately lose to the Republicans, Ferraro cemented her place as a prominent voice in the Democratic party and a trailblazer for women in politics .

#40. Richard Nixon's "Resignation Address to the Nation"

Delivered: Aug. 8, 1974, from Washington D.C.

The case against President Richard Nixon had been growing for years as more details about the Watergate scandal emerged. By August 1974, The Supreme Court ordered the release of tapes he made in the Oval Office, articles of impeachment were being drawn up, and Nixon had lost the support of members of his own party. Rather than suffer the shame of being the first president to be removed from office, Nixon opted to be the first president to resign in a speech highlighting his successes and the work that would need to be continued by his successor.

#39. Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation"

Delivered Dec. 8, 1941, via radio broadcast

World War II had been raging since 1939 across the Atlantic but America's historic reluctance to enter global conflict barred President Franklin Roosevelt from taking the direct action he wanted to support U.S. allies in Europe. That changed after the Japanese military bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, killing thousands of Americans. The next day, FDR took to the radio to report what had happened on this "date which will live in infamy" and called on Congress to declare war on Japan, which they did shortly after.

#38. Huey P. Long's "Share the Wealth"

Delivered Feb. 23, 1934, via radio broadcast

Also called the "Every Man a King" speech, Louisiana Senator Huey P. Long addressed the nation and laid out his radical plan to redistribute wealth between the richest and poorest Americans by capping fortunes and guaranteeing a basic income, among other radical policy proposals . This was a break from the Democratic Party's New Deal policies, which Long felt did not address wealth discrepancies that he believed caused the Great Depression. His embrace of radio to speak directly to the people won him many supporters to his cause; though he was assassinated the following year.

#37. Woodrow Wilson's "Fourteen Points"

Delivered Jan. 8, 1918, in Washington D.C.

Woodrow Wilson and many others who lived through World War I wanted the deadly global conflict to be "the war to end all wars." The idealistic, progressive Wilson turned this desire into his Fourteen Points for world peace, which he later laid out before Congress after other combatants failed to articulate their aims in the war. Cornerstones of Wilson's peace plan included self-determination , free trade, open seas, and a League of Nations to enforce peace around the world—a plan that was ultimately hampered by Congress' refusal to join the League.

#36. Margaret Thatcher's "The Lady's Not for Turning"

Delivered Oct. 10, 1980, in Brighton, England

Margaret Thatcher took over as Prime Minister and leader of the Tory Party at a time when conservatism was becoming politically popular in much of the Western world (Ronald Reagan would be elected a month after this speech was given). In it, Thatcher lays out her opposition to changing the conservative economic policies she'd instituted, one that focuses on curbing inflation and removing economic regulations. It's most famous line, "'You turn [U-turn the economy] if you want to. The lady's not for turning!" fed into her formidable reputation as the Iron Lady of British politics.

#35. Ursula K. Le Guin's "A Left-Handed Commencement Address"

Delivered in 1983, at Mills College, Oakland, Calif.

Feminist science-fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin wasn't shy about interrogating the complexities of gender in her work, featuring everything from strong female characters to genderfluid aliens. Her famous commencement address  is shaped around some of her concerns regarding gender, pointing out that "women as women are largely excluded from, alien to, the self-declared male norms of this society," and that language itself is centered around men. Citing many famous feminists and women leaders of the era, Le Guin's speech provides a powerful call to action for women (and men) to "grow human souls" and work toward gender equality in their own lives.

#34. Harold Macmillan's "Wind of Change"

Delivered Feb. 3, 1960, in Cape Town, South Africa

The list of countries that have never been invaded by the British is shorter than the list of those that have, but by 1960, the British Empire no longer stretched around the world. British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan signaled this by visiting several British colonies in southern Africa before giving a speech to the South African Parliament announcing that England would no longer stand in the way of colonies wishing to become independent. In his opinion, the emergence of these new nations were the result  of "the wind of change...blowing through this continent," and there was nothing Parliament could do to stop them.

#33. Mikhail Gorbachev's resignation

Delivered Dec. 25, 1991, in Moscow, Russia

The fall of the Soviet Union marked the end of the Cold War, the conflict which defined almost every aspect of the post-World War II era. The Cold War didn't end with nuclear holocaust, as many had feared during the conflict's peak, but rather the resignation of executive President Mikhail Gorbachev after several Soviet bloc countries broke away from the USSR behind his back. In the speech he warned that though the country had acquired freedom, "we haven't learned to use freedom yet," so it was important to tread carefully—a warning that has a new salience as the country slides back into authoritarian rule under President Vladimir Putin.

#32. Frank James' "Suppressed Speech"

Delivered Nov. 1970, in Plymouth, Mass.

Wampanoag elder Frank James was invited to speak at a celebration at Plymouth in honor of the 350th Thanksgiving. Organizers objected to his portrayal of the Puritan Pilgrims and white settlers as people who "sought to tame the 'savage' and convert him," but James had refused to read the more PR-friendly speech they gave him. James instead held a protest nearby that has since become the annual Day of Mourning , in which indigenous Americans come to protest and speak out about their experiences.

#31. Jawaharlal Nehru's "Tryst with Destiny"

Delivered Aug. 14–15, 1947, in New Delhi, India

The struggle against the British Empire on the Indian subcontinent finally came to a triumphant finish with Jawaharlal Nehru's "Tryst with Destiny" speech just before midnight on the eve of India's independence. He honors Gandhi as the leader of the movement, as well as the victory they achieved. He also alludes to the Partition that split India and Pakistan into two countries, as well as the sectarian divides between Hindus and Muslims—problems that still plague the country today.

#30. Sacheen Littlefeather's speech at the 1972 Academy Award ceremony

Delivered March 27, 1973, in Los Angeles, Calif.

Marlon Brando shocked the Academy Awards when he refused his Oscar for mobster classic "The Godfather." Instead, he sent indigenous activist Sacheen Littlefeather to refuse the award and give her a platform to protest the treatment of Native Americans in Hollywood, and more importantly, bring attention to the standoff between federal agents and Native Americans at Wounded Knee that was under a media blackout. Littlefeather delivered a shortened version of his message amid boos; The New York Times later printed Brando's letter in its entirety , and the media blackout at Wounded Knee was lifted.

#29. Bill Clinton's "Presidential Address to Columbine High School"

Delivered May 20, 1999, at Dakota Ridge High School, Littleton, Colo.

One of the most difficult jobs of the U.S. President is to act as "consoler-in-chief" when tragedy strikes the nation. President Bill Clinton found himself in that position—and, in the eyes of many, set the standard for future American leaders —after the shooting at Columbine High School left 12 students and one teacher dead. In the speech given a month after the tragedy, Clinton traveled to Colorado to offer support to grieving families and try to come to terms with an event that " pierced the soul of America ."

#28. Eleanor Roosevelt's "On the Adoption of the Declaration of Human Rights"

Delivered Dec. 9, 1948, in Paris, France

Eleanor Roosevelt dedicated her life to human rights around the world, serving as the chair of the United Nations Human Rights Commission after World War II. In that position, she pushed for creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which lays out 30 articles affirming " that man must have freedom in which to develop his full stature and through common effort to raise the level of human dignity."

#27. Stokely Carmichael's "Black Power"

Delivered Oct. 29, 1966, in Berkeley, Calif.

Stokely Carmichael firmly believed in nonviolent protest in the early days of the civil rights movement, but as the years wore on, he became convinced that "black power for black people" was needed to jump-start the next phase of the civil rights project. Black power, later adopted by groups like the Black Panther Party, required a sense of solidarity between black people and the election of black representatives. As his speech demonstrates , this wasn't an inherently violent concept, but rather questions the notion of nonviolence because, as Carmichael points out, "white people beat up black people every day—don't nobody talk about nonviolence."

#26. Aung San Suu Kyi's "Freedom from Fear"

Delivered Jan. 1 1990, in Myanmar (formerly Burma)

Daughter of the founder of the modern Burmese military and a key figure in Burmese independence, Aung San Suu Kyi followed in her father's footsteps to become a leader in the push for democratic government in the country. The military placed her under house arrest on-and-off for over 20 years while she continued to push for democracy, including in this speech, which calls for "a united determination to persevere in the struggle, to make sacrifices in the name of enduring truths, to resist the corrupting influences of desire, ill will, ignorance and fear." She ascended to governmental power in 2010 with global praise and hope for change, but the recent ethnic cleansing of a minority group in the country threatens her legacy as an advocate for freedom .

#25. Emmeline Pankhurst's "Freedom or Death"

Delivered Nov. 13, 1913, in Hartford, Conn.

The early decades of the 1900s brought new energy and activism to the push for women's suffrage in England, just as it did in the United States and Canada. Emmeline Pankhurst delivered this speech on a fundraising tour of the U.S. after a long period of hunger striking and arrests, using imagery from the American Revolution and other powerful metaphors to justify militant tactics adopted by her group in the push for the vote.

#24. Severn Cullis-Suzuki's "Speech to the UN Summit in Rio"

Delivered in 1992, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Twelve-year-old Severn Cullis-Suzuki became "The Girl Who Silenced the World for Five Minutes" after she stunned the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development with a plea for older generations to work to improve the environment. Her demand that "If [adults] don't know how to fix it, please stop breaking it!" echoes those of modern child climate activists like Greta Thunberg, who has led a worldwide movement of school strikes pushing for action on the climate crisis.

#23. Nellie McClung's "Should Men Vote?"

Delivered Jan. 29, 1914, in Winnipeg, Canada

The Canadian women's suffrage movement was kicked into high gear when prominent activist Nellie McClung turned a rejection of the request for the vote into a piece of theater. Drawing on humor and showmanship, she presented a mock trial of men asking women legislators for suffrage, arguing that "manhood suffrage has not been a success in the unhappy countries where it has been tried," among other satirical moments. McClung later campaigned against the party that previously denied her the right to vote, finally winning suffrage for white Manitoban women in 1916.

#22. Ronald Reagan's "Remarks at the Brandenburg Gate"

Delivered June 12, 1987, in West Berlin, Germany

It might be hard to believe, but, coming just a few short years before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union, President Ronald Reagan's cry of "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" didn't make much of a splash when he first gave his speech. It didn't reach its status as a famous piece of American political rhetoric until the wall actually began to come down in 1989. While some scholars claim it helped Reagan build support for his plans to work with the Soviet Union, others believe the Wall's destruction had far more to do with reforms going on inside the USSR.

#21. William Faulkner's Nobel lecture

Delivered Jan. 10, 1950, in Stockholm, Sweden

Author of stories rooted in the American South, William Faulkner's Nobel lecture ( for a prize he didn't even want! ) spoke to deeply American concerns. He addresses the difficulty in creating art in an age of anxiety over atomic destruction, noting that until a writer relearns their craft under this condition, " he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man ." He ends the address rejecting this possibility, offering a surprisingly hopeful view in an age characterized by fear of a nuclear holocaust.

#20. John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address

Delivered Jan. 20, 1961, in Washington D.C.

One line from President John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address has endured in the American imagination for nearly half a century: "My fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country." However, Kennedy's call to public service has overshadowed the fact that most of the speech focused on global issues. As Kennedy was elected near the height of tensions in the Cold War, he felt the need to address both the Soviet Union and allies abroad to reassure them of his competency and desire for global peace.

#19. Lou Gehrig's "Farewell to Baseball Address"

Delivered July 4, 1939, at Yankee Stadium, The Bronx, N.Y.

The crowd at Yankee Stadium sat silent as Lou "The Iron Horse" Gehrig addressed his retirement from baseball after being diagnosed with a disease that would later be named after him. Declaring himself "the luckiest man on the face of the earth," he spoke briefly of the "awful lot [of things] to live for," including his fans, his teammates, and his family members. Following the address, he received a two-minute standing ovation and was showered with gifts and praise.

#18. Winston Churchill's "We Shall Fight on the Beaches"

Delivered: June 4, 1940, in London, England

In the first five weeks after he took over as Prime Minister, Winston Churchill gave three major speeches addressing the worsening war in France. The second of these dealt with the intensifying situation in France. Implying that battle might come to Britain, he declared that "we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets" and never surrender. Parliament praised the rousing address, but the public didn't hear it in Churchill's own words until after the war had ended and caused public pessimism after it was read by broadcasters .

#17. Mahatma Gandhi's "Quit India"

Delivered Aug. 8, 1942, in Bombay (now Mumbai), India

Mohandas "Mahatma" Gandhi became the face of Indian independence as he organized the "Quit India" movement, which, as he laid out in the speech to fellow leaders , would coerce the British to voluntarily leave India using nonviolent protest. His fellow leaders agreed, passing a resolution to that effect, but thousands of arrests followed and Gandhi's speech was suppressed. Underground presses published his speech, and his call to "either free India or die in the attempt" became a rallying point for the movement.

#16. Nelson Mandela's "I am prepared to die"

Delivered April 20, 1964, in Pretoria, South Africa

The address Nelson Mandela gave instead of testimony at his trial for alleged sabotage became the defining speech of the anti-apartheid movement—and of his legacy as an advocate for equality in South Africa. In it, he argues that his cause is correct and explains his views, before launching into his famous conclusion, in which he states a free and equal state is "an ideal for which I am prepared to die." Mandela was sentenced to life in prison but did not die there, instead continuing his advocacy from prison before his release 27 years later.

#15. William Jennings Bryan's "Against Imperialism"

Delivered Aug. 8, 1900, in Indianapolis, Ind.

Perennial presidential candidate (but never winner) William Jennings Bryan advocated against American imperialism shortly after U.S. victory in the Spanish-American War allowed the country to begin building an empire. He appealed to American ideals, pointing out the lack of "full citizenship" offered to Puerto Ricans and Filipinos, and decried the "gun-powder gospel" that argued imperial wars should be fought due to Christianity. Unfortunately, his status as perennial presidential loser continued into the early 1900s and none of his proposed reforms were taken into consideration.

#14. Dolores Huerta's speech at the NFWA march and rally

Delivered April 10, 1966, in Sacramento, Calif.

Dolores Huerta worked alongside César Chávez to establish the National Farm Workers Association and direct the Delano grape strike, where she quickly emerged as a leading feminist figure. Her speech at the NFWA march illustrates her dedication and zeal , exclaiming "La huelga [the strike] and la causa is our cry, and everyone must listen. Viva la huelga!" Huerta's success with the Delano strike led to continued labor organizing and support for feminist causes, activities which she continues today.

#13. Gabriel García Márquez's "The Solitude of Latin America"

Delivered Dec. 8, 1982, in Stockholm, Sweden

Gabriel García Márquez, storied Colombian author whose books "One Hundred Years of Solitude" and "Love in the Time of Cholera" helped fuel the Latin American literature boom, used his Nobel acceptance speech to make a political statement . In it, he spoke of Latin America's isolation in the world, despite decades of imperialism and outside influence in the region. However, with the same magical realism for which his writing was famous, he envisioned " a new and sweeping utopia of life ...where the races condemned to one hundred years of solitude will have, at last and forever, a second opportunity on earth."

#12. Ryan White's "Testimony before the President's Commission on AIDS"

Delivered: March 3, 1988, in Washington D.C.

Born with a rare blood disorder, Ryan White became infected with HIV as a young child because of the factor 8 used for his treatment, which was collected using untested, anonymous blood donors. After his diagnosis in 1984, White attempted to return to school but faced huge stigma and attempts to bar him from the classroom, experiences which formed the basis of his testimony before the commission. This speech, and the court battles over his schooling, led to his becoming a leading HIV/AIDS activist, dispelling myths about the disease for the American public before his death in 1990 at 18.

#11. Elie Wiesel's "The Perils of Indifference"

Delivered April 12, 1999, in Washington D.C.

Eliezer "Elie" Wiesel survived the Holocaust as a teenager, losing his family in the process. The experience fueled his lifelong activism ; he became an educator about the Holocaust and advocate of victims of other atrocities, such as apartheid in South Africa and genocides around the world. His "Perils of Indifference" speech criticized those who ignored the horrors of the Holocaust and reminded listeners that " indifference is not a response " and "in denying [victims] their humanity we betray our own."

#10. Anita Hill's Opening Statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee

Delivered Oct. 11, 1991, in Washington D.C.

Anita Hill's testimony at the Supreme Court confirmation of Clarence Thomas, alleging that he sexually harassed her, proved to be a powerful and occasionally painful day in Washington D.C. Hill, a black woman, shared her experience staring down a Senate Judiciary Committee composed entirely of white men, who have since admitted to mishandling Hill's testimony . Thomas was confirmed to the bench despite Hill's allegations, but her testimony in part spurred record-breaking numbers of women to run for elected office and is seen by some as a precursor to the modern #MeToo movement.

#9. Hillary Rodham Clinton's "Women's Rights are Human Rights"

Delivered Sept. 5, 1995, in Beijing, China

Advisors to then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton advised her to soften her rhetoric in her speech at the United Nations Fourth World Congress on Women , but Clinton refused, seizing the opportunity to shine a spotlight on the abuse of women in China and around the world. Though she is not the first person to declare " human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights, once and for all," she popularized use of the phrase on that day, in a speech that defined Clinton's career apart from her husband's. Since then, it's become a rallying cry in the fight for women's rights and became a focal point in Clinton's 2016 bid for president.

#8. Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1941 State of the Union Address

Delivered Jan. 6, 1941, in Washington D.C.

Delivered just under a year before the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1941 State of the Union emphasized the value of democracy in a world embroiled in a devastating war. It's most famous for FDR's declaration of the four freedoms : freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want (meaning economic security), and freedom from fear (meaning global disarmament and prevention of wars).

#7. César Chávez's "The Mexican American and the Church"

Delivered: March 10, 1968, in Delano, Calif.

César Chávez is an iconic figure in movements for labor rights and Latino rights due to his organization and leadership of the National Farm Workers Association (alongside colleague Dolores Huerta), particularly during the five-year Delano grape strike. Chávez adopted historical tactics of nonviolence and resistance, such as fasting; after breaking a 25-day fast, the religious Chávez spoke at a conference about the relationship between Mexican Americans and the church, calling on the ministry to use their " tremendous spiritual and economic power " to support the striking farm workers. His work with the NFWA formed a cornerstone of the Chicano Movement that pushed for Mexican American rights in the 1960s and beyond.

#6. Harvey Milk's "Hope Speech"

Delivered June 25, 1978, in San Francisco, Calif.

Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, used his "Hope Speech" as his stump speech during his 1977 run for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors; he expanded on it for its final delivery at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade the following year. The rousing speech emphasizes the importance of electing LGBTQ+ leaders so that young LGBTQ+ people across the country surrounded by homophobia can have those to look up to and regain their hope. Milk's life was cut short when he was assassinated only months later, but he continued to inspire hope as a martyr for the LGBTQ+ movement.

#5. Malcom X's "The Ballot or the Bullet"

Delivered April 12, 1964, at King Solomon Baptist Church, Detroit, Mich. (also delivered nine days earlier in Cleveland)

Malcolm X stands alongside Martin Luther King as one of the leading figures of the civil rights movement, but X's advocacy for black nationalism and defeating racism by "any means necessary" often conflicted with King's support for integration and nonviolent protest. "The Ballot or the Bullet," considered by many to be one of Malcolm X's best orations, urges African Americans to exercise their power at the ballot box in the 1964 election and select leaders who will pass civil rights legislation and care about issues affecting black communities.

#4. Dennis Shepard's "Statement to the Court"

Delivered Nov. 4, 1999, in Laramie, Wyo.

Matthew Shepard, a young gay man attending college in Laramie, Wyo., was beaten to death in an apparent hate crime in October 1998. His father gave an emotional impact statement to the court (since excerpted in several movies and plays about the crime), emphasizing the effect of his son's life and death on his family and the world. After their son's death, Dennis Shepard and his wife, Judy, helped to fulfill the promise he made "to see that this never, ever happens to another person or another family again" by advocating for the passage of hate crime legislation that became the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.

#3. Sylvia Rivera's "Y'all Better Quiet Down"

Delivered in 1973, at Washington Square Park, New York City, N.Y.

On June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City, and the riots that resulted jumpstarted the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement. Sylvia Rivera participated in the riots that day (she's said to have thrown one of the first bottles at police) and began a storied career as an activist . Rivera, a transgender Puerto Rican woman, wasn't afraid to call out what she saw as shortcomings in the movement; she delivered her "Y'all Better Quiet Down" to the crowd at the Christopher Street Liberation Rally, decrying white, middle-class gay men and lesbians for ignoring transgender people and other marginalized voices in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights.

#2. John F. Kennedy's "We choose to go to the moon"

Delivered Sept. 12, 1962, at Rice Stadium, Houston, Texas

In 1962, the U.S. and Soviet Union were in the thick of the Space Race, and the U.S. government was fighting over how much money to put into the project to put a man on the moon. With this speech , President Kennedy put an end to the squabbling; he laid out why it was important for the U.S. to lead the way to the stars and famously declared, " We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard." This speech inspired the American people, and the Apollo mission was made a priority, leading to Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon on July 20, 1969.

#1. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream"

Delivered Aug. 28, 1963, in Washington D.C.

While Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was giving a speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, gospel singer (and King's close friend) Mahalia Jackson spurred him to go off-script , calling out, "Tell them about the dream, Martin! Tell them about the dream!" He did, and today, King's dream that his four children "live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character" is one of the most lauded pieces of American rhetoric. It cemented King's place as the face of the civil rights movement, for which he's still celebrated today. Pictured here is Martin Luther King (center) leading the "March on Washington" the day he gave the speech. 

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History Is Mystery

A blog on Exploring the Rich and Diverse History of World.

Notable Speeches That Shaped History: Top 10 and Their Impact

10 Notable Speeches and Their Profound Impact:

Shaping Nations and Movements

Notable speeches and impact of speeches have been a force of profound impact throughout history, shaping the destinies of nations, inspiring movements, and redefining the course of human events. In this article, we embark on a journey through time to explore ten iconic speeches delivered by visionary leaders and influential orators.

Each of these speeches is not merely a collection of words; it is a powerful reflection of the values, ideals, and struggles of its era. From the stirring rhetoric of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address to the impassioned pleas of Chandra Shekhar Azad for India’s independence, we will delve into these speeches’ significance and the enduring impacts they have left on history and the world. These moments of eloquence have not only shaped the past but continue to resonate, guiding our understanding of the present and influencing our aspirations for the future.

Notable Speeches

Ten Notable Speeches and Their Timeless Impact of Speeches:

Notable speeches have the power to shape nations and inspire powerful movements. Let’s explore ten historic speeches and their profound impact on the world.

1. Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s “Declaration of Sentiments” (1848)

Notable speeches: At the Seneca Falls Convention, suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton delivered a speech patterned after the Declaration of Independence, asserting women’s rights, including suffrage. Stanton proclaimed that women should be seen as equal citizens.

Impact of Speeches: Stanton’s speech ignited the women’s suffrage movement, leading to legislative changes that secured women’s right to vote in the United States, marking a crucial milestone in the journey toward gender equality.

2. Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (1863)

Notable speeches: President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is one of the most celebrated speeches in American history. Delivered at the Gettysburg battlefield during the Civil War, Lincoln’s speech emphasized the enduring principles of democracy and freedom. In just 272 words, he articulated the idea that a nation “conceived in Liberty” and dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal” must persist.

Impact of Speeches: Lincoln’s speech remains a cornerstone of American values, influencing discussions on liberty and equality. It helped unify the nation during a tumultuous period in U.S. history and inspired generations to strive for a more perfect union.

3. John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address (1961)

Notable speeches: President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address stands out for its call to service and collective responsibility. His famous words, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” emphasized the importance of national unity, cooperation, and global diplomacy during the height of the Cold War.

Impact of Speeches: Kennedy’s focus on civic responsibility influenced public service and civic engagement in the United States, inspiring a generation to actively contribute to their nation and the world.

4. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” (1963)

Notable speeches: During the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, passionately advocating for racial equality and justice. King envisioned a future where his four little children would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Impact of Speeches: This speech continues to be a touchstone of the Civil Rights Movement, inspiring countless individuals to confront racial discrimination and pushing for legislative changes to secure civil rights for all. It symbolizes the dream of a more inclusive and just America.

5. Chandra Shekhar Azad’s “Mera naam Azad, Mere pita ka naam Swadheen aur mera ghar jail hai”

Notable speeches: Chandra Shekhar Azad, a revolutionary fighter during India’s struggle for independence, delivered his iconic speech during the British colonial rule. He proudly declared, “Mera naam Azad, Mere pita ka naam Swadheen aur mera ghar jail hai” (“My name is Azad, my father’s name is Swadhin, and my home is jail”).

Impact of Speeches: Azad’s speech served as a powerful call for freedom and self-determination in India, inspiring others to join the fight against British oppression and colonial rule.

6. Subhas Chandra Bose’s “Give me Blood, and I shall give you Freedom!” (1944)

Notable speeches: Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, a prominent leader in the Indian independence movement, delivered the rousing speech “Give me Blood, and I shall give you Freedom!” as he sought international support for India’s struggle against British colonial rule.

Impact of Speeches: Bose’s speech galvanized Indians in their fight for freedom and generated international attention, ultimately accelerating the end of British colonialism in India.

7. Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri: India’s second Prime Minister, was known for his simplicity, humility, and dedication to public service. One of his most famous and impactful speeches was delivered during a crucial time in India’s history. On January 11, 1966, Shastri addressed the nation, providing a message that has since become iconic.

Notable speeches: “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan!” Translation: “Hail the Soldier, Hail the Farmer!” In the backdrop of India’s severe food scarcity and the ongoing conflict with Pakistan (the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965), Shastri coined this slogan to rally the nation. The phrase was not just a catchy slogan; it encapsulated the essence of his leadership and his deep concern for India’s well-being.

Impact of Speeches: It made a profound impact by unifying India during a time of crisis. It boosted the morale of the armed forces and encouraged farmers to increase agricultural production, alleviating food shortages. The legacy of this slogan endures, symbolizing India’s gratitude to its soldiers and farmers and underscoring their vital roles in the nation’s growth and well-being. Shastri’s call for unity and hard work remains a timeless source of inspiration.

8. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s Speech on the Liberation of Bangladesh (1971)

Notable speeches:  Prime Minister Indira Gandhi delivered a historic speech, announcing the successful liberation of Bangladesh from Pakistani oppression and declaring, “Dhaka is now the free capital of a free country.”

Impact of Speeches: Gandhi’s speech marked a pivotal moment in the Bangladesh Liberation War, solidifying the country’s independence and strengthening India’s international standing. These speeches are more than just words; they are the embodiment of values and ideals that have the power to inspire, unite, and drive positive change. They are a testament to the enduring impact of powerful ideals and the voices that champion them.

9. Ronald Reagan’s “Tear Down This Wall” (1987)

Notable speeches: During a speech near the Berlin Wall, President Ronald Reagan implored Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall,” symbolizing the desire for freedom and reunification in a divided Berlin.

Impact of Speeches: Reagan’s words resonated globally and contributed to the eventual fall of the Berlin Wall, symbolizing the end of the Cold War and the reunification of Germany.

10. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Speech on Pokhran-2 (1998) Notable speeches:  After India conducted the Pokhran-2 nuclear tests in May 1998, then-Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee emphasized the importance of a strong, self-reliant, and secure India. In his address, he paid homage to Lal Bahadur Shastri’s famous slogan “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan, Jai Vigyan” and modified it to reflect the evolving challenges and aspirations of the nation. Vajpayee’s adaptation of the slogan was “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan, Jai Vigyan ” which translates to “Hail the Soldier, Hail the Farmer, Hail Science.” Impact of Speeches: Vajpayee’s speech underscored India’s position on nuclear deterrence and influenced the nation’s security policy, solidifying India’s status as a nuclear-armed nation.


Notable speeches and the impact of speeches: As we conclude our journey through these iconic speeches and their timeless impact, we are reminded that words have the power to shape nations, inspire movements, and transcend the boundaries of time. These speeches are more than just words; they are echoes of courage, determination, and unwavering ideals that continue to reverberate through the annals of history. From the hallowed grounds of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, where the call for equality and liberty resonates through the ages, to the impassioned plea of Chandra Shekhar Azad for India’s independence, each of these orations stands as a testament to the indomitable human spirit. They have illuminated the path to justice, equality, and freedom. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s call for ‘Give me Blood, and I shall give you Freedom!’ remains a rallying cry for all who seek independence and self-determination. Lal Bahadur Shastri’s iconic ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan!’ inspires a nation to honor its soldiers and farmers, recognizing their pivotal roles in shaping India’s destiny. Indira Gandhi’s historic speech marked a defining moment in the Bangladesh Liberation War, strengthening the foundation of a free country. Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s call to honor the soldier, the farmer, and science underscores the progress and security of a resurgent India.”

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August 28, 2017 | by NCC Staff

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech certainly ranks highly in the pantheon of public speaking. Here is a look at the Dream speech and other addresses that moved people – and history.


King’s “Dream” speech from August 28, 1963 topped the list, followed by John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address and Franklin Roosevelt’s first inaugural address in 1933. In fact, three of King’s speeches were included in the top 50 speeches listed by the experts.

The eclectic list included public speeches from Barbara Jordan, Richard Nixon, Malcom X and Ronald Reagan in the top 10 of the rankings.

Link : Read The List

Public speaking has played an important role in our country’s story. Here is a quick look at some of the landmark speeches that often pop up in the discussion about public rhetoric.

1. Patrick Henry. “ Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death .” In March 1775, Henry spoke to a Virginia convention considering a breakaway from British rule. “The war is actually begun. The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms,” said Henry, who spoke without notes. “I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”

2. George Washington’s first inaugural address . In 1789, the First President addressed the First Congress after his inauguration, setting the precedent for all inaugural speeches to follow. Washington enforced the need for the Constitution, concluding that “Parent of the Human Race  … has been pleased to favor the American people with opportunities for deliberating in perfect tranquillity, and dispositions for deciding with unparalleled unanimity on a form of government for the security of their union and the advancement of their happiness.”

3. Frederick Douglass. “ The Hypocrisy Of American Slavery .” In 1852, Douglass was invited to speak at a public Fourth of July celebration in Rochester, N.Y. Instead of talking about the celebration, Douglass addressed the issue that was dividing the nation. “I will, in the name of humanity, which is outraged, in the name of liberty, which is fettered, in the name of the Constitution and the Bible, which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery,” he said.

4. Abraham Lincoln. “ The Gettysburg Address .” The best known of Lincoln’s speeches was one of his shortest. Lincoln was asked to make a few remarks in November 1863 after featured speaker Edward Everett spoke for about two hours. “Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” Lincoln said in his opening paragraph. He spoke for two minutes.

5. William Jennings Bryan. “ Cross of Gold Speech .” A lesser-known contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1896, Bryan created a sensation with his speech that condemned the gold standard and held the promise of debt relief for farmers. “We shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold,” Bryan said with his arms spread in a crucifix-like position.

6. FDR’s first inaugural address . In 1933, the new President faced a nation in the grips of a deep economic recession. “First of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance,” Roosevelt said as he opened his powerful speech. The inaugural set the agenda for FDR’s 12 years in office.

7. Richard Nixon’s Checkers speech . Facing controversy as a vice presidential candidate, Nixon showed how television could be used as a powerful communications tool. In a stroke of political genius, Nixon spoke to the nation about his family finances, and then said the only gift he wouldn’t return was Checkers, the family dog.

8. JFK’s first inaugural address . The well-written 1961 speech is considered one of the best inaugural speeches ever. Rhetoric expert Dr. Max Atkinson told the BBC in 2011 what made the Kennedy speech special. “Tt was the first inaugural address by a U.S. president to follow the first rule of speech-preparation: analyze your audience - or, to be more precise at a time when mass access to television was in its infancy, analyze your audiences.”

9. Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech . King’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial in August 1963, in front of 250,000 people, is also one of the most-analyzed speeches in modern history. But King hadn’t included the sequence about the “Dream” in his prepared remarks. Singer Mahalia Jackson yelled for King to speak about “the Dream,” and King improvised based on remarks he had made in earlier speeches.

10. Ronald Reagan in Berlin . President Reagan appeared at the 750 th birthday celebration for Berlin in 1987, speaking about 100 yards away from the Berlin Wall. Reagan first cited President Kennedy’s famous 1963 speech in Berlin, and then asked, “General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” A Reagan speech writer later said the State Department didn’t want Reagan to use the famous line, but Reagan decided to do it anyway.

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The 15 greatest speeches of all time, by 15 inspirational women

We celebrate the greatest speeches of all time, spoken by women who have changed the world for the better

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Amanda Gorman

Let these greatest speeches of all time empower you as a woman and unite us all in a quest for positive change. Words can be incredibly powerful, as is shown in these insightful, spine-tingling and, at times, revolution-inspiring speeches, spoken by great women throughout history, such as Maya Angelo and Emmeline Pankhurst, as well as modern change-makers like Amanda Gorman and Emma Watson . 

It's easy for women's voices to get lost in a sea of historical rhetoric. The most quoted speeches of all time are often those delivered by men, the words of many great women swept under the carpet. Swimming against the current, women have had to speak louder to get their voices heard. In the words of Virginia Woolf, they've had to create a room of their own. So we've rounded up fifteen inspirational women to celebrate those who found a room and encouraged others to do the same. 

Many of these speeches remain relevant for women fighting for equality in a social and political landscape where women are still under-represented. Take for example, Emma Watson's UN "He For She" speech— a decade later, we are still fighting for  equal pay . Or Hillary Clinton's impassioned delivery of "women's rights are human rights"—a quote that feels more relevant than ever considering the overturning of  Roe Vs Wade  in the US and ongoing regressive and oppressive policies worldwide. 

Now more than ever, women must support other women and not only allow their voices to be heard but help amplify the message they share. To inspire you to do the same, these are fifteen of the greatest speeches of all time. 

The greatest speeches of all time by women

1. virginia woolf, "a room of one's own" (1928).

Greatest speeches of all time: Virginia Woolf black and white picture

"My belief is that if we live another century or so—I am talking of the common life which is the real life and not of the little separate lives which we live as individuals—and have five hundred a year each of us and rooms of our own; if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think..."

Based on a series of lectures Woolf delivered in October 1928, A Room Of One's Own has since been heralded as a feminist manifesto. Her words continue to inspire women in 2015 nearly a century after she first spoke them. 

The speech strikes at the heart of patriarchy and argues that without financial independence and access to education—ideological, social and creative freedom is out of reach. Virginia knew this truth all too well: her own father believed only boys profited from schooling. As a result, she didn't go. Her strength of spirit defied even her own father: "Lock up your libraries if you like", she said, "but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind."

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2. Emma Watson, "Gender equality is your issue too" (2014)

"I am from Britain and think it is right that as a woman I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decision-making of my country. I think it is right that socially I am afforded the same respect as men. But sadly I can say that there is no one country in the world where all women can expect to receive these rights."

In 2014, Emma Watson partnered with UN Women to launch their HeForShe campaign fighting to end gender inequality and it's still relevant nearly a decade later.

"In 1995, Hilary Clinton made a famous speech in Beijing about women’s rights. Sadly many of the things she wanted to change are still a reality today." Watson continues, and speaking of Clinton... 

3. Hillary Clinton, "Women's Rights Are Human Rights" (1995)

"If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all. Let us not forget that among those rights are the right to speak freely—and the right to be heard."

Five words that said it all: "Women's rights are human rights".

In 1995, Hillary Clinton's speech at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing marked a watershed moment for women's rights. What makes this speech so inspirational isn't just the words she spoke but where she spoke them. Defying both US administration and Chinese pressure to dilute her remarks, she went for the jugular. It was a full-blown attack against policies abusing "unheard" women around the globe—not just China.

4.  Malala Yousafzai's "I am here to stand up for their rights, to raise their voice" (2014)

"I am those 66 million girls who are deprived of education. And today I am not raising my voice, it is the voice of those 66 million girls. Sometimes people like to ask me why should girls go to school, why is it important for them. But I think the more important question is why shouldn’t they? Why shouldn’t they have this right to go to school?"

At the age of 17 Malala Yousafzai was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for her work fighting for every child to receive an education. As the youngest winner of the prize,  the activist's powerful acceptance speech is not one to be forgotten. 

"Let us become the first generation that decides to be the last that sees empty classrooms, lost childhoods and wasted potentials. Let this be the last time that a girl or a boy spends their childhood in a factory. Let this be the last time that a girl is forced into early child marriage.

"Let this end with us. Let’s begin this ending . . . together . . . today . . . right here, right now. Let’s begin this ending now."

5. Sojourner Truth, "Ain't I A Woman" (1851)

'I have as much muscle as any man, and can do as much work as any man. I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and mowed, and can any man do more than that?'  

Named Isabella Baumfree , it says a great deal about Sojourner that she called herself Truth. She spoke it. An African-American abolitionist and women's rights activist, Truth was born into slavery in New York, sold at auction with a flock of sheep for $100 in 1806, escaping with her baby daughter in 1826. 

Oprah Winfrey has recited Truth's inspirational speech many times since.

6. Nora Ephron, "Commencement Address To Wellesley Class Of 1996" (1996)

Greatest speeches of all time: Nora Ephron at theNora Ephron at the Hollywood Awards Gala

"Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women."

Nora also spiked her speech with words of caution: "Understand: every attack on Hillary Clinton for not knowing her place is an attack on you," she rallied. Her words still echo today and one sentence rings eternally true: "Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim."

7. Aung San Suu Kyi, "Freedom From Fear" (1990)

Greatest speeches of all time: Aung San Suu-Kyi giving a speech

"Fearlessness may be a gift but perhaps more precious is the courage acquired through endeavour, courage that comes from cultivating the habit of refusing to let fear dictate one's actions, courage that could be described as 'grace under pressure'—grace which is renewed repeatedly in the face of harsh, unremitting pressure."

Burma's "woman of destiny" has inspired millions during her lifetime of political activism and captivity, held under house arrest for 15 of the past 21 years in Burma. Receiving the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 1990, this now-famous speech followed in acceptance appeals to the spirituality of human nature: it's bravery, compassion and conviction.

8. Gloria Steinem, "Address to the Women of America" (1971)

Greatest speeches of all time: Gloria Steinem at Democratic National Convention

"This is no simple reform. It really is a revolution. Sex and race, because they are easy, visible differences, have been the primary ways of organizing human beings into superior and inferior groups, and into the cheap labour on which this system still depends. We are talking about a society in which there will be no roles other than those chosen, or those earned. We are really talking about humanism."

In 1971 Gloria Steinem delivered an inspiring Address to the Women of America . It would soon be regarded as one of the most memorable speeches of the second-wave feminist era. What made her speech so powerful wasn't just its attack on sexism, but its focus on the intersectional issues of racism and class.

9. Greta Thunberg, "We'll be watching you" (2019)

"I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words, and yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering, people are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth."

Greta Thunberg was only a teenager when she gave one of the most powerful speeches on climate change . Thunberg's United Nations speech in 2019 is the one everyone remembers when the name Greta Thunberg comes to mind. Albeit only a teenager, she has made many a powerful speech since, including asking world leaders to stop delivering ‘empty promises’. 

10. Maya Angelou, "On the Pulse of Morning" (1993)

Greatest speeches of all time: Maya Angelou giving a speech

'"Here on the pulse of this new day, you may have the grace to look up and out And into your sister's eyes, Into your brother's face, your country And say simply Very simply With hope Good morning."

Maya Angelou was only the second poet in history to read a poem at a presidential inauguration, and the first African American and woman. Touching upon the themes of change, inclusion and responsibility, it has since been called Angelou's "autobiographical poem".

Maya Angelou was an extraordinarily wise woman . One of her most inspiring quotes to live by? 

"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude."

11. Ruth Bader Ginsberg, "The Value of Diversity" (2009)

Ruth Bader Ginsberg giving a speech

"As you leave here and proceed along life’s paths, try to leave tracks. Use the education you have received to help repair tears in your communities. Take part in efforts to move those communities, your Nation, and our world closer to the conditions needed to ensure the health and well-being of your generation and generations following your own."

Ruth Bader Ginsberg delivered this passionate keynote speech to graduates at Sciences Po in 2009. Nicknamed the 'notorious RBG' for her fighting spirit and tireless pursuit towards equality, in terms of both gender and race, this speech emphasises the importance of 'repairing the tears' in communities and coming together to build a stronger world for the generations after us. 

She explains earlier in the speech: "We will all profit from a more diverse, inclusive society, understanding, accommodating, even celebrating our differences, while pulling together for the common good."

After her passing in 2020, former President of the United States Barack Obama published a statement that read: “She was someone who believed that equal justice under law only had meaning if it applied to every single [individual].”

12. Julia Gillard "Misogyny speech" (2012)

Greatest speeches of all time: Julia Gillard

"I rise to oppose the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition, and in so doing I say to the Leader of the Opposition: I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man. I will not. The government will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man—not now, not ever.

"I hope the Leader of the Opposition has a piece of paper and he is writing out his resignation, because if he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia he does not need a motion in the House of Representatives; he needs a mirror. That is what he needs."

In an iconic moment in feminist history, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard gave an impassioned speech on misogyny that has continued to hold its power to this day. Julia's speech was in response to opposition leader Tony Abbott accusing her of sexism, calling for her to sack Speaker Peter Slipper following an accusation of misogynistic text messages. 

Julia later said of the speech : "After every sexist thing directed at me that I’d bitten my lip on, now I was going to be accused of sexism – the unfairness of that. That anger propelled it.”

13. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie "We should all be feminists" (2011)

“Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?” Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general - but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women. That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about being a female human. For centuries, the world divided human beings into two groups and then proceeded to exclude and oppress one group. It is only fair that the solution to the problem acknowledge that.”

Award-winning Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TedTalks is widely regarded as one of the platform’s best-ever speeches. So much so, that it’s been published as a book and translated into 32 languages. 

In the thirty-minute talk address, she argued for women’s rights and inclusivity and drew on her own experiences. Oh, and Beyonce sampled the speech in her song Flawless .

14. Amanda Gorman "The Hill We Climb" (2021)

“We are striving to forge our union with purpose.

To compose a country committed to all cultures, colours, characters, and conditions of man.

And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.”

The first person ever to be named National Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman — then only 22 — was catapulted to fame after she performed her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the 2021 inauguration of Joe Biden. Her work addresses sustainability, feminism, racism, and inequality. 

15. Michelle Obama "The 2018 United State of Women Summit" (2018)

“I wish that girls could fail as bad as men do and be OK. Because let me tell you, watching men fail up, it is frustrating. It’s frustrating to see a lot of men blow it and win. And we hold ourselves to these crazy, crazy standards.”

Speaking to Tracee Ellis Ross at the 2018 United State of Women Summit in Los Angeles, Michelle Obama called on the need for girls to be believed in, invested in, and nurtured the way that boys and men are. “If we want our daughters to dream bigger than we did, then we have more work to do,” she said. The speech launched a global petition calling lawmakers to #LeveltheLaw to “empower girls and women around the world”. 

If you're searching for more inspiration on the themes in these speeches, we've rounded up all the best feminist books to add to your reading list and four feminist petitions to sign. 

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7 of the Most Profound and Famous Short Speeches Ever Heard

There are many famous short speeches that have been a turning point in history. Here is a list of some of the most notable speeches ever.

Famous Short Speeches

Speech is power: Speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel. – Ralph Waldo Emerson This quote brilliantly summarizes the power of a good speech. There is no dearth of famous short speeches that have irrevocably influenced mankind and history.

Although the list may seem endless, and there will always be some or the other disagreement of which of these should figure in the list of popular speeches of all time, given below is a compilation of famous speeches by famous people including former presidents, politicians, a great visionary, and a world-renowned dramatist.These have gone down in history as something that people find relevant and influential even today. It is not necessary for a speech to be long to be famous, even a short one can be great, if it has an ability to mesmerize and inspire the audience. What follows, is a list of some of the most notable short speeches of all time. These were given at historical junctions, and had a significant impact at that time, and hold true even today. As these speeches continue to inspire many, they will go down in the annals of time.

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Pearl Harbor Address

One of the most famous speeches given by a sitting American President, although it lasted just a little over seven and a half minutes, it managed to stir a nation’s patriotism to the very bone and was a significant point in American history. President Roosevelt gave the famous speech to a joint session of Congress, the day after the Japanese bombing of the Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. An excerpt from the speech is as follows:

December 7th, 1941, a date which will live in infamy… No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory… I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.

Ronald Reagan’s Speech Following the Challenger Disaster

American President Ronald Reagan made his famous short speech on national television following the disastrous explosion of the Challenger Space Shuttle. On 26 January, 1986 after only 73 seconds into its flight, the space shuttle broke apart, causing the death of all the seven crew members on board, including a classroom teacher who had been chosen to be the first ever non-astronaut classroom teacher to travel into space. President Reagan spoke of the traumatic accident saying:

Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all people of our country. This is truly a national loss… Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground. But we’ve never lost an astronaut in flight. We’ve never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we’ve forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle. But they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We mourn their loss as a nation together. One of President John F. Kennedy’s most famous speech, was given on 26 June, 1963, to consolidate United States’ support for West Germany a little less than two years after the Communist East Germany erected the Berlin Wall. One of the most famous phrases in history “ Ich bin ein Berliner “, was in fact a last-minute brain child of Kennedy, who came up with the idea of saying it in German, while he was walking up the stairs at the Rathaus (City Hall). It was a great motivational speech for West Berliners, who lived in the constant fear of a possible East German occupation. Given below is an excerpt from this historic speech:

Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was ‘Civis Romanus sum [I am a Roman citizen]’. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’… All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!’

Bill Clinton’s “I Have Sinned” Speech

The famous, or rather infamous “I have sinned” speech, was delivered by President Bill Clinton at the annual White House prayer breakfast on September 11, 1998, in the presence of several ministers, priests and his wife, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. It was hand-written by the President Clinton himself and was delivered on the day of the publication of the first report by Independent Counsel Ken Starr, which threatened to impeach the President Clinton on the grounds of perjury and his sexual affair with former White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.

I agree with those who have said that in my first statement after I testified I was not contrite enough. I don’t think there is a fancy way to say that I have sinned. It is important to me that everybody who has been hurt know that the sorrow I feel is genuine: first and most important, my family; also my friends, my staff, my Cabinet, Monica Lewinsky and her family, and the American people. I have asked all for their forgiveness… But I believe that to be forgiven, more than sorrow is required – at least two more things. First, genuine repentance – a determination to change and to repair breaches of my own making. I have repented. Second, what my bible calls a ”broken spirit”; an understanding that I must have God’s help to be the person that I want to be; a willingness to give the very forgiveness I seek; a renunciation of the pride and the anger which cloud judgment, lead people to excuse and compare and to blame and complain…

Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech

“I have a dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr., which was delivered on 28 August, 1963 at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom , was a path-breaking moment for the Civil Rights Movement in America. Given to an audience of more than 200,000 people, this speech was ranked as the top American speech by a 1999 poll of scholars.

I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

William Shakespeare’s Speeches

The Bard has left behind his legacy in ways more than one. Most of the non-political popular speeches have been written by William Shakespeare. While there are many, like Hamlet’s “To be or not to be…”, and Portia’s speech in Merchant of Venice “The quality of mercy is not strain’d…” to name a few, the Bard’s most famous speech till date is the speech by Jaques in “As You Like It”, which goes as…

All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages. At first the infant, Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms. And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel And shining morning face, creeping like snail Unwillingly to school. And then the lover, Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier, Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard, Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel, Seeking the bubble reputation Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice, In fair round belly with good capon lined, With eyes severe and beard of formal cut, Full of wise saws and modern instances; And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon, With spectacles on nose and pouch on side, His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice, Turning again toward childish treble, pipes And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all, That ends this strange eventful history, Is second childishness and mere oblivion, Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Steve Jobs ‘Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish’ Speech

One of my personal favorites, and a speech that today’s youth identify themselves with, is the Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ commencement speech on 12 June, 2005 at Stanford, which was replete with inspirational quotes. His last words in the address “ Stay hungry, stay foolish ” is one of the most famous quotes and is echoed the world over even today, and spurred on a bestselling book of the same name. It summed up his life in three parts, which he narrated in the form of three stories. This is a small excerpt from this notable short inspirational speech:

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories… When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960s’, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

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7 Powerful Speeches That Have Changed the World

7 Powerful Speeches That Have Changed the World

In honor of this summer’s “i have a dream” anniversary, we’ve curated images of the speeches that remain embedded in our memory — and the people who delivered them..

This August marks the anniversary of “I Have a Dream,” the unforgettable speech by Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lincoln Memorial, during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Even then, Dr. King anticipated that that day would “go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation” — and fifty-seven years later, it has.

For generations, great speeches — whether made by political leaders, activists, or citizens — have helped reshape our societies. They’ve held us accountable, inspired us to do better, and motivated us to overcome the odds. Sometimes they’ve changed the world, drawing lines on the map and recharting the course of history.

Over the last century and a half, we’ve been able to relive some of these historic moments through illustrations and photographs. In honor of this summer’s anniversary of “I Have a Dream,” we’ve curated a selection of images that illuminate seven powerful speeches that remain embedded in our collective memory — and the people who delivered them.

1. “Ain’t I a Woman,” Sojourner Truth, 1851

Abolitionist Sojourner Truth

Delivered at the Women’s Rights Convention in Ohio, this speech by the American abolitionist, feminist, and former slave, exists today in two different versions — one published by the Reverend Marius Robinson in 1851 and another relayed by the abolitionist Frances Gage in 1863.

Illustration of Sojourner Truth from the Film The Emerging Woman

During the 1951 convention, discussions of women’s rights were met with arguments, some based on passages from the Bible, about why men were “superior” to women. Though she hadn’t prepared official remarks beforehand, Truth — a preacher herself — was moved to stand up and voice her thoughts about equality. Even those who disagreed were left in silence following her words. As Harriet Beecher Stowe once put it, “I never knew a person who possessed so much of that subtle, controlling power called presence as Sojourner Truth.”

Sojourner Truth and President Lincoln at the White House (1861)

Truth would continue advocating for human rights for the rest of her life. She met with Abraham Lincoln on the eve of the Civil War and made visits to the White House thereafter to ask for help in the war effort. During the bloody conflict, she treated wounded soldiers and provided care to formerly enslaved people from around the country.

2. “The Gettysburg Address,” Abraham Lincoln, 1863

Illustration of Lincoln Making the Gettysburg Address

The American President delivered this now-iconic speech on a battlefield in Pennsylvania during the Civil War, following the Battle of Gettysburg and marking the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery. Though it was not scheduled to be the main address of the day, this brief, 272-word speech has become one of the most enduring in American history.

Lincoln Among the Crowd at Soldiers' National Cemetery

Even in the three minutes it took the President to make his remarks, he left a strong impression. According to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Garry Wills, he was interrupted five times by applause. Today, five copies of the speech exist, written in Lincoln’s hand. Though they differ slightly from one another, they all underscore the importance of liberty, equality, and unity in the aftermath of one of history’s bloodiest battles.

Although Lincoln remarked at the time that “the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here,” his words have endured. Later, the speech would form part of the legacy that inspired Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. If “Gettysburg” referenced and expanded the meaning of the Declaration of Independence , “I Have a Dream” referenced and expanded upon “Gettysburg.”

3. “Freedom or Death,” Emmeline Pankhurst, 1913

Christabel and Emmeline Pankhurst

Delivered by British activist Emmeline Pankhurst in Hartford, Connecticut, this address brought together suffragists and suffragettes from both nations, joined in the battle for voting rights. In it, she described herself as a soldier in a civil war waged by women, and she underscored the fact that while male revolutionaries had long been heard and understood, women had been overlooked and cast aside.

During the speech, Pankhurst also addressed her sometimes controversial use of militant methods, comparing them with the Boston Tea Party during the American Revolution. She passionately spoke about the injustice of denying the vote to half of the population, whether in the United States or her homeland.

Mrs. Pankhurst Detained by Police, Buckingham Palace

Pankhurst also spoke of the hunger strikes that women across the Atlantic had endured — and the ways in which they had refused to give in to authorities. She alluded to her time in prison overseas, and asked for help from America in the fight for suffrage. She promised, “If we win it, this hardest of all fights, then, to be sure, in the future it is going to be made easier for women all over the world to win their fight, when their time comes.”

4. “We Shall Fight on the Beaches,” Winston Churchill, 1940

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in London

The British Prime Minister delivered this speech, one of several historic addresses during the Second World War, to the House of Commons on June 4th, 1940, following the Battle of Dunkirk. With the threat of a Nazi invasion looming — along with the possible fall of France — Churchill made the promise to fight, alone if need be, and to never surrender his nation.

The speech — and the iconic lines, “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills” — was addressed, in part, to the British as a show of strength amid painful and demoralizing circumstances. However, it should also be read as an appeal to the United States to join the fight against Nazi Germany.

Winston Churchill, Downing Street, London

In the end, it wasn’t only Churchill’s fortitude but also his honesty that made the speech one for the ages. “He has always been able to look at the facts without flinching,” The New York Times declared the next day. “This was gloomy, but it was magnificent.”

5. The Second Bill of Rights, Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1944

During his State of the Union Address in January of 1944, delivered as a fireside chat from the White House, President Roosevelt introduced the idea of a “second Bill of Rights” — one that would ensure the economic security and independence of all Americans, including the right to employment, housing, medical care, education, social security, and more.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt Speaks from the White House

While the Bill of Rights had promised political rights, he felt that, as the nation grew, more steps were needed to protect equality in the pursuit of happiness. The eight rights in the proposed bill would, in his words, “spell security.” Without security, he argued, Americans could not be truly free.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt Broadcasts HIs Five-Point Victory Program

Though sick with the flu, Roosevelt spoke passionately: “After this war is won, we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.” The second Bill of Rights was not adopted, but even now, it serves as a reminder and point of departure for those advocating for economic equality and justice.

6. “I Have a Dream,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 1963

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.

This historic speech from the American civil rights activist Dr. King, made a hundred years after the “Gettysburg Address” and the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States, brought into focus the injustices of racial segregation, inequality, discrimination, and police brutality. It was delivered on a sweltering hot summer day, and 250,000 people, having traveled from around the country, were in attendance.

Civil Rights Protesters, Washington D.C.

Dr. King drew inspiration from the Bible, history, literature, and music. Perhaps the most famous line — and the one from which the speech gets its name — was inspired midway through the address when the singer Mahalia Jackson cried out from the stands, “Tell ’em about the ‘Dream,’ Martin, tell ’em about the ‘Dream!’” It was a reference to earlier speeches, and Dr. King understood immediately, setting aside the prepared words and improvising some of the most important words in American history. 

Dr. Martin Luther King Addressing a Nation

In his address, Dr. King spoke of what he called “the fierce urgency of now,” declaring, “Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.” Decades have passed, but that sense of urgency still resonates today. As the great activist himself put it, “1963 is not an end, but a beginning.”

7. “I Am Prepared to Die,” Nelson Mandela, 1964

During the proceedings at the Rivonia Trial, the anti-apartheid revolutionary and political leader Nelson Mandela delivered this three-hour speech from the defendant’s dock in lieu of testifying, addressing the charges he faced and the realities of apartheid in South Africa. At the time, he was accused of sabotage, and if convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Winnie Mandela Leaving Court in Pretoria, South Africa

In those pivotal three hours, addressing the judge in a segregated courtroom, Mandela spoke about the exploitation and oppression of Black people in South Africa. He discussed the many ways in which the struggle for equality had (thus far) been blocked by legislation and government violence. He also laid bare the injustices of poverty and alluded to the fundamental human right to live in dignity.

In his Rivonia speech, Mandela also spoke about the right to vote, describing the ANC’s (African National Congress) mission as “a struggle for the right to live.” He closed the address with the now-famous passage, “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to see realized. But, my lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Police Forming a Blockade in Pretoria, South Africa

Two months after the legendary speech, Mandela and seven other members of the ANC were convicted of sabotage and sentenced to life imprisonment. Mandela was released in 1990, following twenty-seven years of imprisonment at Robben Island. While these photographs don’t depict the speech inside the courtroom, they do capture that moment in national and international history.

Nelson Mandela Released from Victor Verster Prison

Cover image via AP/​Shutterstock .

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Why the speech by Kansas City Chiefs kicker was embraced at Benedictine College’s commencement

The Benedictine College sign is seen Wednesday, May 15, 2024, in Atchison, Kan., days after Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker gave a commencement speech that has been gaining attention. Butker's speech has raised some eyebrows with his proclamations of conservative politics and Catholicism, but he received a standing ovation from graduates and other attendees of the commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 11. (AP Photo/Nick Ingram)

The Benedictine College sign is seen Wednesday, May 15, 2024, in Atchison, Kan., days after Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker gave a commencement speech that has been gaining attention. Butker’s speech has raised some eyebrows with his proclamations of conservative politics and Catholicism, but he received a standing ovation from graduates and other attendees of the commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 11. (AP Photo/Nick Ingram)

Students leave after attending a Catholic Mass at Benedictine College Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023, in Atchison, Kan. Students told The Associated Press in interviews they embrace the college’s emphasis on Catholic teaching and practice. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

FILE - Catholics pray during Mass at Benedictine College Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023, in Atchison, Kan. Enrollment, now about 2,200, has doubled in 20 years. Some 85% of its students are Catholic, according to the Cardinal Newman Society. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

The campus at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., was quiet on Wednesday, May 15, 2024, days after Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker gave a commencement speech that was getting attention. Butker’s speech has raised some eyebrows with his proclamations of conservative politics and Catholicism during his weekend speech, but he received a standing ovation from graduates and other attendees of the commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 11. (AP Photo/Nick Ingram)

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Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker may have stirred controversy in some quarters for his proclamations of conservative politics and Catholicism on Saturday, but he received a standing ovation from graduates and other attendees of the May 11 commencement ceremony at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.

The fast-growing college is part of a constellation of conservative Catholic colleges that tout their adherence to church teachings and practice — part of a larger conservative movement in parts of the U.S. Catholic Church.

Butker’s 20-minute speech hit several cultural flashpoints.

Butker, a conservative Catholic himself, dismissed Pride month as consisting of the “deadly sin sort of pride” while denouncing abortion and President Joe Biden’s handling of the pandemic. He said women are told “diabolical lies” about career ambition when “one of the most important titles of all” is that of homemaker. He said this is not time for “the church of nice” and in particular blasted Catholics who support abortion rights and “dangerous gender ideologies.”


Benedictine College is a Catholic college in Atchison, Kansas, that traces its roots to 1858. It is located about 60 miles north of Kansas City., and has an enrollment of about 2,200.

FILE - Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker speaks to the media during NFL football Super Bowl 58 opening night Monday, Feb. 5, 2024, in Las Vegas. Butker railed against Pride month along with President Biden’s leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic and his stance on abortion during a commencement address at Benedictine College last weekend. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)


In some ways, Benedictine College sounds like a typical Catholic college. Its “mission as a Catholic, Benedictine, liberal arts, residential college is the education of men and women within a community of faith and scholarship,” according to its website.

But its home to more traditional expressions of Catholicism, such as the Latin Mass, all-night prayer vigils and a strict code of conduct. Its mission statement further cites its commitment to “those specific matters of faith of the Roman Catholic tradition, as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ and handed down in the teachings of the Church.”

The school gets a high ranking from the Cardinal Newman Society, a group that touts nearly two-dozen conservative colleges that exhibit what it calls “faithful Catholic education.” That includes upholding church teachings and Catholic identity while providing ample Masses and other devotional activities in shaping their students.

The society seeks to differentiate schools that “refuse to compromise their Catholic mission” from those that have become “battlegrounds for today’s culture wars.” Others praised by the society include Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., Ave Maria University in Florida and Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.

The society’s ranking says Benedictine benefits from having monks in residence, multiple Masses and prayer groups, spiritually focused organizations and theology programs with professors with a “mandatum” of approval from the local bishop.


Benedictine’s enrollment has doubled in the past 20 years. Some 85% of its students are Catholic, according to the Cardinal Newman Society.

Students told The Associated Press in interviews they embrace the college’s emphasis on Catholic teaching and practice.

“It’s a renewal of, like, some really, really good things that we might have lost,” one student told the AP in its recent article on the revival of conservative Catholicism.


Annual tuition for full-time undergraduates is $35,350, but Benedictine says 100% of its students receive some form of financial aid.

Benedictine’s sports teams, called the Ravens, compete in National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. Its athletics department says it is committed to ”setting the highest standards for academic success, athletic competition, ethical behavior, fiscal responsibility, and spiritual development.”


Video of the commencement shows virtually all the graduates and spectators rising to a standing ovation, but student interviews showed a more mixed reaction.

ValerieAnne Volpe, 20, who graduated with an art degree, lauded Butker for saying things that “people are scared to say.”

“I was thinking about my dad, who was also here, and how he’s probably clapping and so happy to see what he would say is a real man (reflecting) family values, good religious upbringing and representation of Christ to people,” she said. “You can just hear that he loves his wife. You can hear that he loves his family.”

Kassidy Neuner, 22, said the speech felt “a little degrading” and gave the impression that only women can be a homemaker.

“I think that men have that option as well,” said Neuner, who will be spending a gap year teaching before going to law school. “And to point this out specifically that that’s what we’re looking forward to in life seems like our four years of hard work wasn’t really important.”

Elle Wilbers, 22, who is heading to medical school in the fall, said the Catholic faith focuses on mothers, so that portion of the speech wasn’t surprising. She was more shocked by his criticism of priests and bishops “misleading their flocks” and a quip comparing LGBTQ+ Pride month to one of the seven deadly sins.

“We should have compassion for the people who have been told all their life that the person they love is like, it’s not okay to love that person,” Wilbers said. “It was sort of just a shock. I was like, ‘Is he really saying this right now?’”


The Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica, one of the founding sponsors of Benedictine College, issued a statement Thursday criticizing Buter’s speech, contending it did not properly represent the college’s values.

“Instead of promoting unity in our church, our nation, and the world, his comments seem to have fostered division,” the statement said.

“One of our concerns was the assertion that being a homemaker is the highest calling for a woman,” it added. “We sisters have dedicated our lives to God and God’s people, including the many women whom we have taught. ... These women have made a tremendous difference in the world in their roles as wives and mothers and through their God-given gifts in leadership, scholarship, and their careers.”

Associated Press religion coverage receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

powerful speech history

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Biden delivers Morehouse commencement speech as some students and faculty express pro-Palestinian messages

A TLANTA — President Joe Biden delivered the commencement address at Morehouse College on Sunday morning, his most direct engagement with college students since the start of the Israel-Hamas war and a key opportunity for him to engage with a group of voters that data suggests is softening on him: young, Black men.

No significant, disruptive protests materialized, but some students and faculty members still expressed their support for Gaza during the ceremony. 

Pro-Palestinian demonstrations began even before Biden taking the stage Sunday morning. As graduates and faculty entered the ceremony, at least eight students and three staff members wore pro-Palestinan garb, some adorned in Palestinian flags and others wearing keffiyeh scarves.

An opening prayer by Rev. Dr. Claybon Lea Jr. urged those in power to be “accountable for valuing human life” across the globe.

“Whether they live in Israel or Palestine, Ukraine, or Russia, the Congo or Haiti, God give us men that will value life and call us to accountability. Give us men who require all of us to live the golden rule and even follow the edicts of that Palestinian Jew named Jesus,” Lea said as Biden sat inches behind him.

In the most direct call to action of the ceremony, valedictorian Deangelo Jeremiah Fletcher concluded his remarks by calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, framing his decision to speak on the conflict as a moral duty in line with the legacy of fellow Morehouse alumnus, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“It is important to recognize that both sides have suffered heavy casualties in the wake of Oct. 7,” Fletcher said. “From the comfort of our homes, we watch an unprecedented number of civilians mourn the loss of men, women and children while calling for the release of all hostages for the first time in our lives we’ve heard the global community sing one harmonious song that transcends language and culture. It is my stance as a Morehouse man named as a human being to call for an immediate and a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.”

The protests during the commencement were largely peaceful, following instructions Morehouse President David Thomas gave to faculty and students across at least three meetings: the right to protest will be honored as long as they’re not disruptive.

Ahead of the commencement, Thomas told CNN that though he will not ask police to intervene should protests occur during Biden’s remarks, he would immediately bring the commencement to a halt.

“I have also made a decision that we will also not ask police to take individuals out of commencement in zip ties. If faced with the choice, I will cease the ceremonies on the spot if we were to reach that position,” Thomas said.

Even the most vocal student protesters at Morehouse predicted that protests during the commencement ceremony would likely not be disruptive, partially due to the volatility a police response would likely incite.

“I think that whatever happens on Sunday on the part of the people and the people who want to see some change is going to be peaceful,” Karim said. “I don’t see it erupting like it has at some of the other campuses, because we at HBCUs here are also just mindful of the fact of how interactions with police often go.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Friday that Biden spent several days working on the speech, tapping into a braintrust of senior advisors, including some Morehouse alum, to craft his message to the 415 Black men graduating from the school.

Biden previewed the tone of his remarks during a speech Thursday to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision.

“Morehouse was founded after our nation’s Civil War to help prepare Black Americans who were formerly enslaved to enter the ministry, earn an education and usher them from slavery to freedom,” Biden said before announcing $16 billion in new investments for historically Black colleges and universities. “The founders of Morehouse understood something fundamental. Education is linked to freedom. Because to be free means to have something that no one can ever take away from you.”

Biden’s speech at Morehouse came against the backdrop of protests on college campuses nationwide over his handling over the war in Gaza, with many students and faculty members voicing opposition to the White House’s continued financial and military support for Israel. Some at Morehouse hoped Biden would speak directly to those concerns during his commencement remarks.

“I hope that we don’t get boilerplate language. I hope that we get something we haven’t heard before. I hope that his ethical, moral conscience trump any politics,” Morehouse professor Stephane Dunn said at a protest Friday.

Morehouse has also had pro-Palestinian protests on campus, though the HBCU did not see the same scale or escalation of demonstrations as some larger universities.

The school’s decision to host Biden as commencement speaker and award him an honorary doctorate degree almost immediately sparked protests among faculty and students, some continuing into the days leading up to the commencement ceremony.

“This is one big distraction on a day to celebrate the class of 2024 following Covid-19, but this is also an opportunity for students to make their voices heard during a time of increasing war and genocide in the Middle East,” Morehouse senior Calvin Bell said in reaction to Biden’s visit.

“We as students, faculty and alums who are standing on the right side of history do not stand with Biden,” said another Morehouse student, sophomore Anwar Karim. “We do not align ourselves with all of the clear and avid support that he’s had for a genocidal campaign on the part of the Israelis for the last over 200-plus days.”

Most recently, Morehouse faculty were split over the decision to award Biden an honorary doctorate degree at the ceremony. A letter circulated among staff members in protest of the decision got more that two dozen signatures in support, and the vote to award the degree passed 50-38, with roughly 12 faculty members abstaining.

The White House deployed its allies to Morehouse, both formally and informally, to assuage concerns and lower tensions over Biden’s visit.

Steve Benjamin, who heads the White House Office of Public Engagement, met with a small group of Morehouse students and faculty this month following a push from the school’s leadership for “direct engagement” from the White House.

During the meeting, some students expressed concerns about Biden overshadowing their graduation, while others implored Benjamin to ensure Biden’s speech doesn’t double as a campaign stump speech — frustrated with the idea of the commencement address being a vehicle for Biden to bolster support among Black voters.

That sentiment was shared by other Morehouse students critical of Biden’s visit.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he only accepted the invitation after Trump was already in [Atlanta’s] West End, trying to make gains and failing to make gains with our students here,” Morehouse student Malik Poole said at a campus protest ahead of Biden’s visit. “And this is coming at a time where voters of color are fleeing from Biden at record pace.”

But still, Biden’s Morehouse visit will come amid a concerted effort by his administration and campaign this week to sharpen his message to Black voters .

On Thursday, Biden met with plaintiffs and their family members from the historic Brown v. Board of Education case. The following day, he met with leaders of the Divine Nine, a group of historically Black sororities and fraternities, alongside Vice President Kamala Harris, a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority herself. During his trip to Georgia, Biden on Saturday attended an event focused on engaging Black voters. And following his commencement address, Biden will close out the weekend by delivering the keynote address at the NAACP Freedom Fund dinner in Detroit, where he plans to tout his administration’s accomplishments for Black Americans.

As data suggests that Black voters — particularly young Black voters — are souring on Biden, some at Morehouse recognized the “opportunity” Biden had to make his case to members of that voting bloc during his address.

“If you want ... these students to vote in the fall for you, you have to give them something that shows that you are hearing them,” Dunn said. “That you are trying to do something we haven’t heard about. This is the opportunity.”

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Biden delivers Morehouse commencement speech as some students and faculty express pro-Palestinian messages


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Benedictine College Commencement

Benedictine College Celebrates Largest Graduating Class in History

powerful speech history

A record 485 seniors walked across the stage on Saturday, May 11, during the annual Commencement exercises at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. Those at the undergraduate ceremony heard a speech from Harrison Butker, best known as the fantastic placekicker for the World Champion Kansas City Chiefs, but also a very successful entrepreneur and noted philanthropist, who was the event’s keynote speaker.

Lt. Gen. Arthur Gregg (ret.) also received an honorary degree during the ceremony, although remotely. He is the first black man and the first living person to have an Army Fort named in his honor. Fort Gregg-Adams near Petersburg, Va., is named for him.

Harrison Butker

Butker held up Benedictine College as an example. “Places like Benedictine, a little Kansas college so high up on a bluff above the Missouri River, are showing the world that a Christ-centered existence is the recipe for success,” Butker said. “You need to look no further than the examples all around campus where, over the past 20 years, enrollment has doubled and construction and revitalization are a constant part of life, and people, the faculty, staff and students, are thriving.”

He told the students to focus on their vocation, whatever that might be. He talked about his wife, Isabelle, whom he has known since middle school.

“She chose to be my wife and embrace one of the most important titles,” he said, becoming emotional. “She’s the primary educator to our children. She’s the one who ensures I never let football or my business become a distraction from being a father and husband. She is the person that knows me best and it is through our marriage that, Lord willing, we both will attain salvation.”

“You are sitting at the edge of the rest of your lives,” Butker said. “Each of you has the potential to leave a legacy that transcends yourselves and this era of human existence. And in small ways, by living out your vocation, you will ensure that God’s Church continues, and the world is enlightened by your example.”

Butker received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Benedictine.

Lt. Gen. Arthur Gregg (ret) when he became a 3-star general in 1977.

The other honorary degree recipient, Gen. Gregg, talked about how his career and future were limited without a college degree. He remembered that he talked with Benedictine College (then St. Benedict’s College) administrators and, after examining his academic record, found that he could complete his degree over a summer and fall semester while he was at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, nearby. With that degree in hand, he was able to get additional promotions, attended the Army War College, and ultimately achieved the rank of 3-star General.

“Benedictine College provided me with the path to my continued success,” he said. He also had some words of wisdom on what was his 96 th birthday for the graduates in attendance.

“I want to congratulate my fellow Ravens on their graduation today,” said Gregg. “You have reached a level of personal maturity and academic achievement needed to take on adult responsibilities and to begin successful careers. Like previous graduates, you will help America to be a great country.

“The education and formation you have received from Benedictine College will be critical to your success in life as it has been in mine.”

Dr. Kimberly Shankman, Dean of the College, directed the annual exercise, which began with a prayer from Sister Mary Elizabeth Schweiger, Prioress at Mount St. Scholastica Monastery, one of the founding institutions of Benedictine College.

The 2024 Valedictorians (L-R) Liza Trettel, Levi Streit, Katherine Brandenburg, Shea Nowicki, and Andrew Selness, after being announced at the Senior Brunch on Friday, May 10.

This year featured a record five Valedictorians:  Katherine Brandenburg, a Psychology graduate from Basehor, Kansas; Shea Nowicki, a Theology graduate from Scottsdale, Arizona; Andrew Selness, a Theology and Philosophy graduate from St. Louis, Missouri; Levi Streit, a Biology graduate from Wichita, Kansas; and Liza Trettel, a Graphic Design graduate from Kearney, Nebraska.

President of Benedictine College Stephen D. Minnis announced the annual Fran Jabara Leadership Award winners. Each year, the award is given to select graduating seniors at each private, four-year college in Kansas. The award indicates the high level of ability the recipients have displayed as well as the respect with which their peers and teachers view them. This year, the Jabara Leadership Awards went to Anastasia Adams from Lander, Wyoming, who graduated with degrees in Secondary Education and English, and David Lauterwasser from Overland Park, Kansas, who graduated with a degree in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Psychology.

Benjamin Hoopes, a Theology major from Atchison, Kansas, received the Transforming Culture in America Award for his tireless efforts to bring people together through small gatherings and regular dinners.

“Ben really has the heart of a servant and has helped the college and broader communities in a wide variety of ways,” said President Minnis.

Those graduates who are discerning religious vocations were also recognized. President Minnis called Gabriel Friess, Gerard Remmes, Joseph Stokman, Hagan Stovall, and Christopher Ullrich the “next leaders of the Catholic Church.” The ceremony concluded with Remmes singing the Benedictine College Alma Mater, O Lord of Ev’ry Blessing , followed by the closing prayer from Abbot James Albers, OSB, from St. Benedict’s Abbey.

The day before Commencement featured the traditional photo of graduates around the Benedictine “B” in front of the Haverty Center. That was followed by the March of Light, a procession up the Raven Walk, through the Grotto and into the Abbey Church for Baccalaureate Mass. The Most Reverend Joseph Naumann, Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas, was the principal celebrant and homilist for the Mass.

Benedictine College

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is honored to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report, the best private college in Kansas by The Wall Street Journal , and one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide . It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. Benedictine College is dedicated to transforming culture in America through its mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.

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In Dallas speech, Donald Trump tells NRA crowd gun rights are ‘under siege’

The republican presidential candidate promised to protect the second amendment, oversee history’s largest deportation of undocumented migrants..

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks during the Leadership...

By Gromer Jeffers Jr.

6:54 PM on May 18, 2024 CDT

Former President Donald Trump, in Dallas to address the National Rifle Association convention, said Saturday that Second Amendment rights were under attack as part of a deterioration of America under President Joe Biden.

“Our Second Amendment is under siege. Our Constitution is being run through the shredder. Our borders are being obliterated,” Trump told convention delegates, who responded with several loud ovations, particularly when he lashed out at Biden.

“It’s time for a president who will replace weakness with strength, turn poverty to prosperity and vanquish Joe Biden’s corrupt tyranny with a great restoration of American freedom,” he said.

Trump used a phrase from his old television show, The Apprentice , to sum up the election in a fiery 100-minute speech that included touches of humor.

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“To achieve the future you have to march into the voter booth and tell crooked Joe Biden, ‘Joe, you’re doing a horrible job. You’re a horrible president.’” Trump said. “Like Apprentice , Joe you’re fired. Get out of here, Joe.”

Trump also promised that as president he will implement history’s largest deportation of undocumented migrants.

“It will be a big one,” he said.

People cheer as Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks...

Trump also promised to boost the Texas energy industry.

“Drill baby, drill,” he said.

Before Trump’s NRA speech, his campaign announced a new Gun Owners for Trump coalition led by “over 50 Olympic athletes, firearm industry leaders and Second Amendment advocates.”

And, as expected, NRA officials announced Saturday the group had endorsed Trump.

Democrats criticized Trump’s appearance at the NRA convention, which comes in the same month as the one-year anniversary of the May 6 mass shooting at Allen Premium Outlets, where a man with an AR-15 assault-style weapon killed eight people and injured seven others.

“There is one thing that drives this senseless epidemic – the shameless inaction of the Republican Party that has been bought and paid for by the NRA,” Dallas County Democratic Party Chairman Kardal Coleman said in a statement. “To add insult to injury, the City of Dallas and Texas could pay a combined $1 million in tax-payer dollars to host a convention that does not reflect the values of Dallasites.”

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump gestures as he comes out on...

Trump’s Dallas speech offered a respite from his New York trial over whether he committed felony business fraud related to hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels. On Monday, Trump’s lawyers will continue cross examining Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer who is central to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s case.

“They want to take away my rights worse than Alphonse Capone,” Trump said. “He got indicted less than I did.”

Throughout his speech Trump praised Texas. And he told delegates he played golf Saturday with former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.

Trump has called Texas, a fundraising hub for his presidential campaigns, his second home. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick leads Trump’s Texas campaign and has advised the former president on state issues like border security and energy, as well as helping to make endorsements of statewide and local candidates.

Several high-profile Texans listened to Trump’s speech at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, including Patrick and U.S. Reps. Pat Fallon, R-Sherman, and Ronny Jackson, R-Amarillo.

Some Texas Republican House candidates also were there, including David Covey, who’s trying to unseat House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont.

Trump called Phelan “an absolutely terrible speaker of the House.”

“He didn’t want to go into voter fraud,” Trump said. “He didn’t want to do it. … We have to get the speaker out of there.”

Trump also praised Gov. Greg Abbott, who addressed the convention before the former president.

“He’s a hot politician,” Trump said of Abbott. “You know why he’s hot? He’s doing a great job.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during the Leadership Forum at 2024 NRA Annual Meetings and...

Trump has said Abbott was on his short list of potential running mates. Abbott responded that he’s flattered to be considered but is focused on leading Texas. He is fully engaged in the Texas Republican primaries, using his time and resources to push candidates who support his plan to allow students to use public dollars for private school expenses.

Much of Abbott’s speech was about border security, where he praised Trump and criticized Biden.

“This crisis is about to come to an end in just six months,” Abbott said. “That’s when Joe Biden will be fired as president of the United States of America, and Donald Trump will once again become president of the greatest country in the world.”

In his speech Abbott touted Texas legislation that he signed to promote the Second Amendment, including allowing Texans to carry guns without a permit.

By law, Texas is a Second Amendment Sanctuary State, and its agencies and officials are barred from assisting in the implementation of federal gun-control policies.

“Now, more than ever, we must fight to protect our Second Amendment rights,” Abbott said.

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Gromer Jeffers Jr. , political writer . The Howard University graduate and Chicago native has covered four presidential campaigns and written extensively about local, state and national politics. Before The News, he was a reporter at The Kansas City Star and The Chicago Defender. You can catch Gromer every Sunday at 8:30 a.m. on NBC 5's Lone Star Politics.

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Solar Storm Intensifies, Filling Skies With Northern Lights

Officials warned of potential blackouts or interference with navigation and communication systems this weekend, as well as auroras as far south as Southern California or Texas.

powerful speech history

By Katrina Miller and Judson Jones

Katrina Miller reports on space and astronomy and Judson Jones is a meteorologist.

A dramatic blast from the sun set off the highest-level geomagnetic storm in Earth’s atmosphere on Friday that is expected to make the northern lights visible as far south as Florida and Southern California and could interfere with power grids, communications and navigations system.

It is the strongest such storm to reach Earth since Halloween of 2003. That one was strong enough to create power outages in Sweden and damage transformers in South Africa.

The effects could continue through the weekend as a steady stream of emissions from the sun continues to bombard the planet’s magnetic field.

The solar activity is so powerful that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which monitors space weather, issued an unusual storm watch for the first time in 19 years, which was then upgraded to a warning. The agency began observing outbursts on the sun’s surface on Wednesday, with at least five heading in the direction of Earth.

“What we’re expecting over the next couple of days should be more significant than what we’ve seen certainly so far,” Mike Bettwy, the operations chief at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, said at a news conference on Friday morning.

For people in many places, the most visible part of the storm will be the northern lights, known also as auroras. But authorities and companies will also be on the lookout for the event’s effects on infrastructure, like global positioning systems, radio communications and even electrical power.

While the northern lights are most often seen in higher latitudes closer to the North Pole, people in many more parts of the world are already getting a show this weekend that could last through the early part of next week.

Windmills against skies glowing pink, purple and green.

As Friday turned to Saturday in Europe, people across the continent described skies hued in a mottling of colors.

Alfredo Carpineti , an astrophysicist, journalist and author in North London, saw them with his husband from the rooftop of their apartment building.

“It is incredible to be able to see the aurora directly from one’s own backyard,” he said. “I was hoping to maybe catch a glimpse of green on the horizon, but it was all across the sky in both green and purple.”

Here’s what you need to know about this weekend’s solar event.

How will the storm affect people on Earth?

A geomagnetic storm watch or warning indicates that space weather may affect critical infrastructure on or orbiting near Earth. It may introduce additional current into systems, which could damage pipelines, railroad tracks and power lines.

According to Joe Llama, an astronomer at Lowell Observatory, communications that rely on high frequency radio waves, such as ham radio and commercial aviation , are most likely to suffer. That means it is unlikely that your cellphone or car radio, which depend on much higher frequency radio waves, will conk out.

Still, it is possible for blackouts to occur. As with any power outage, you can prepare by keeping your devices charged and having access to backup batteries, generators and radio.

The most notable solar storm recorded in history occurred in 1859. Known as the Carrington Event, it lasted for nearly a week, creating aurora that stretched down to Hawaii and Central America and impacting hundreds of thousands of miles of telegraph lines.

But that was technology of the 19th century, used before scientists fully understood how solar activity disrupted Earth’s atmosphere and communication systems.

“That was an extreme level event,” said Shawn Dahl, a forecaster at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center. “We are not anticipating that.”

Unlike tornado watches and warnings, the target audience for NOAA’s announcements is not the public.

“For most people here on planet Earth, they won’t have to do anything,” said Rob Steenburgh, a space scientist at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center.

The goal of the announcements is to give agencies and companies that operate this infrastructure time to put protection measures in place to mitigate any effects.

“If everything is working like it should, the grid will be stable and they’ll be able to go about their daily lives,” Mr. Steenburgh said.

powerful speech history

Will I be able to see the northern lights?

It is possible that the northern lights may grace the skies this week over places that don’t usually see them. The best visibility is outside the bright lights of cities.

Clouds or stormy weather could pose a problem in some places. But if the skies are clear, even well south of where the aurora is forecast to take place, snap a picture or record a video with your cellphone. The sensor on the camera is more sensitive to the wavelengths produced by the aurora and may produce an image you can’t see with the naked eye.

Another opportunity could be viewing sunspots during the daytime, if your skies are clear. As always, do not look directly at the sun without protection. But if you still have your eclipse glasses lying around from the April 8 event, you may try to use them to try to spot the cluster of sunspots causing the activity.

How strong is the current geomagnetic storm?

Giant explosions on the surface of the sun, known as coronal mass ejections, send streams of energetic particles into space. But the sun is large, and such outbursts may not cross our planet as it travels around the star. But when these particles create a disturbance in Earth’s magnetic field, it is known as a geomagnetic storm.

NOAA classifies these storms on a “G” scale of 1 to 5, with G1 being minor and G5 being extreme. The most extreme storms can cause widespread blackouts and damage to infrastructure on Earth. Satellites may also have trouble orienting themselves or sending or receiving information during these events.

The current storm is classified as G5, or “extreme.” It is caused by a cluster of sunspots — dark, cool regions on the solar surface — that is about 16 times the diameter of Earth. The cluster is flaring and ejecting material every six to 12 hours.

“We anticipate that we’re going to get one shock after another through the weekend,” said Brent Gordon, chief of the space weather services branch at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center.

Why is this happening now?

The sun’s activity ebbs and flows on an 11-year cycle, and right now, it is approaching a solar maximum. Three other severe geomagnetic storms have been observed so far in the current activity cycle, which began in December 2019, but none were predicted to cause effects strong enough on Earth to warrant a watch or warning announcement.

The cluster of sunspots generating the current storm is the largest seen in this solar cycle, NOAA officials said. They added that the activity in this cycle has outperformed initial predictions .

More flares and expulsions from this cluster are expected, but because of the sun’s rotation the cluster will be oriented in a position less likely to affect Earth. In the coming weeks, the sunspots may appear again on the left side of the sun, but it is difficult for scientists to predict whether this will cause another bout of activity.

“Usually, these don’t come around packing as much of a punch as they did originally,” Mr. Dahl said. “But time will tell on that.”

Jonathan O’Callaghan contributed reporting from London.

An earlier version of this article misstated the radio frequencies used by cellphones and car radios. They are higher frequencies, not low.

How we handle corrections

Katrina Miller is a science reporting fellow for The Times. She recently earned her Ph.D. in particle physics from the University of Chicago. More about Katrina Miller

Judson Jones is a meteorologist and reporter for The Times who forecasts and covers extreme weather. More about Judson Jones

What’s Up in Space and Astronomy

Keep track of things going on in our solar system and all around the universe..

Never miss an eclipse, a meteor shower, a rocket launch or any other 2024 event  that’s out of this world with  our space and astronomy calendar .

A dramatic blast from the sun  set off the highest-level geomagnetic storm in Earth’s atmosphere, making the northern lights visible around the world .

With the help of Google Cloud, scientists who hunt killer asteroids churned through hundreds of thousands of images of the night sky to reveal 27,500 overlooked space rocks in the solar system .

A celestial image, an Impressionistic swirl of color in the center of the Milky Way, represents a first step toward understanding the role of magnetic fields  in the cycle of stellar death and rebirth.

Scientists may have discovered a major flaw in their understanding of dark energy, a mysterious cosmic force . That could be good news for the fate of the universe.

Is Pluto a planet? And what is a planet, anyway? Test your knowledge here .


Aliyah Boston’s Powerful Moment With Caitlin Clark During WNBA Debut Loved by Fans

Andy nesbitt | may 15, 2024.

Aliyah Boston was seen coaching up Caitlin Clark as they made their way to the locker room at halftime of their game vs. the Connecticut Sun.

  • Connecticut Sun
  • Indiana Fever

Caitlin Clark's WNBA debut didn't go exactly as she hoped as the former Iowa star finished with 20 points and 10 turnovers in the Indiana Fever's 92-71 loss to the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday night.

Clark did make four three-pointers on the night and seemed to get more into a groove late in the game after some early foul trouble landed her on the bench for a bit during the first half.

ESPN's cameras caught a powerful moment as Clark made her way to locker room at halftime. Teammate Aliyah Boston, the No. 1 overall in the 2023 WNBA draft, was seen coaching Clark up as they walked off the court and into the tunnel.

This was pretty great:

Aliyah Boston coaching Caitlin Clark after struggling in the first half. — SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 15, 2024

Boston and Clark should form quite a duo in the WNBA. Fans loved seeing that moment between the two:

Great leadership. She will eventually adjust and settle in — Coach Hanson (@Reghanson) May 15, 2024
I. Love. Aliyah Boston. #LeadershipLivedOut — Sahar Nusseibeh (@Coach_Sahar) May 15, 2024
The high-five at the end says it all. These ladies mean business.👊 @WTHRcom | @IndianaFever — Samantha Johnson 13 NEWS (@SamJohnsonNews) May 15, 2024
I think this will be how the Fever begin to create a winning culture. Can’t shy away from the process. They had the #1 pick for reason. I love it! — Bringing the Culture (@BringingCulture) May 15, 2024
That’s leadership — Big Slick (@BigSlick2389) May 15, 2024
Love to see it. #teammates #leadership — Jessica Squier (@jessica_squier) May 15, 2024
Be a good teammate 🫶🏼 encourage and lift each other up always! — Coach Borrego (@CBorrego_PHHS) May 15, 2024
Great teammate/leader — Brent Walker (@BrentWalkerJr) May 15, 2024

Clark's home opener is Thursday night when the Fever host the New York Liberty.

Andy Nesbitt



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