The 35 Greatest Speeches in History

by Brett & Kate McKay on August 1, 2008 · 178 comments

in A Man's Life, Manly Knowledge

Socrates, “Apology”

399 B.C.; Athens

Socrates is perhaps the greatest teacher in the history of the Western world. He wandered around Athens engaging in dialogues with his fellow citizens that focused on discovering the truth of all things. He taught his pupils that the “unexamined life is not worth living.”

The Athenians saw Socrates as a threat, especially to the Athenian youth. Socrates acquired quite a following among the young men of Athens. He taught these impressionable minds to question everything, even Athenian authority. Eventually, Socrates was arrested and put on trial for corrupting the youth, not believing the gods, and creating new deities.

The “Apology” is Socrates’ defense to these charges. Instead of crying and pleading for mercy, Socrates accepts his charges and attempts to persuade the jury with reason. He argued that it was his calling from the gods to seek knowledge and that it was through his questions he uncovered truth. To not fulfill his calling would be blasphemy. In the end, Socrates lost and was sentenced to death by hemlock. Socrates accepted this fate willingly and without grudge against his condemners, thus dying as a martyr for free thinking.

Worthy Excerpt:

Some one will say: Yes, Socrates, but cannot you hold your tongue, and then you may go into a foreign city, and no one will interfere with you? Now I have great difficulty in making you understand my answer to this. For if I tell you that to do as you say would be a disobedience to the God, and therefore that I cannot hold my tongue, you will not believe that I am serious; and if I say again that daily to discourse about virtue, and of those other things about which you hear me examining myself and others, is the greatest good of man, and that the unexamined life is not worth living, you are still less likely to believe me.

George Washington, “Resignation Speech”

December 23, 1784; Annapolis, Maryland

As the Revolutionary War drew to a close, there was much speculation that George Washington, then Major General and Commander-in-Chief, would follow in the footsteps of former world leaders by making a grab for supreme power. Some even wished he would do so, hoping he would become the king of a new nation. Yet Washington knew that such a move would wither the fragile beginnings of the new republic. Looking to the Roman general Cincinnatus an exemplar, Washington rejected the temptations of power and resigned his position as Commander-in-Chief. Choosing the right is almost never easy, and as Washington read his speech in front of the Continental Congress, the great statesman trembled so much that he had to hold the parchment with two hands to keep it steady. “The spectators all wept, and there was hardly a member of Congress who did not drop tears. His voice faltered and sunk, and the whole house felt his agitations.” When finished, Washington bolted from the door of the Annapolis State House, mounted his horse, and galloped away into the sunset.

Worthy Excerpt:

While I repeat my obligations

to the Army in general, I should do injustice to my own feelings not to acknowledge in this place the peculiar Services and distinguished merits of the Gentlemen who have been attached to my person during the War. It was impossible the choice of confidential Officers to compose my family should have been more fortunate. Permit me Sir, to recommend in particular those, who have continued in Service to the present moment, as worthy of the favorable notice and patronage of Congress.

I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my Official life, by commending the Interests of our dearest Country to the protection of Almighty God, and those who have the superintendence of them, to his holy keeping.

Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theater of Action; and bidding an Affectionate farewell to this August body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my Commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.

Read the full text here.

Mahatma Gandhi, “Quit India”

August 8, 1942; India

While the battle for freedom and democracy raged across the world, the people of India were engaged in their own fight for liberty. For almost a century, India had been under the direct rule of the British crown, and many Indians had had enough. Mahatma Gandhi and the National Indian Congress pushed for a completely non-violent movement aimed at forcing Britain to “Quit India.” Gandhi, pioneer of the tactics of non-violent civil disobedience, called for their use on August 8, 1942 with the passing of the Quit India Resolution demanding complete independence from British rule.

Worthy Excerpt:

I believe that in the history of the world, there has not been a more genuinely democratic struggle for freedom than ours. I read Carlyle’s French Resolution while I was in prison, and Pandit Jawaharlal has told me something about the Russian revolution. But it is my conviction that inasmuch as these struggles were fought with the weapon of violence they failed to realize the democratic ideal. In the democracy which I have envisaged, a democracy established by non-violence, there will be equal freedom for all. Everybody will be his own master. It is to join a struggle for such democracy that I invite you today. Once you realize this you will forget the differences between the Hindus and Muslims, and think of yourselves as Indians only, engaged in the common struggle for independence.

Read full text of speech here.

Winston Churchill, “Their Finest Hour”

June 18, 1940; House of Commons, London

On May 10, 1940, the Germans began their invasion of France. On June 14 Paris fell. In a matter of days, France would surrender and England would stand as Europe’s lone bulwark against the twin evils of Fascism and Nazism. At this critical moment, Churchill gave his third and final speech during the Battle of France, once again imparting words meant to bring hope in this dark hour.

Worthy Excerpt:

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.’

Read full text of speech here.

Listen to the speech.

William Faulkner, “Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech”

December 10, 1950; Stockholm, Sweden

A true master of the written word, William Faulkner did not often make public his gift for the spoken variety. So there was some interest as to what he would say when accepting the Nobel Peace Prize for his “powerful and artistically unique contribution to the modern American novel.” The year was 1950, the Soviet Union had tapped the potential of the atomic bomb, and the atmosphere in the the United States crackled with the fear of them using it. Faulkner challenged poets, authors, and all mankind to think beyond the questions of “When will I be blown up?” and instead continue to “create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before.”

Worthy Excerpt:

I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal because he will endure: that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

Read full text of speech here.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Farewell Address”

January 17, 1961; Washington, D.C.

The 1950′s were a time of ever increasing military spending, as the United States sought to fight communism abroad and prevent it at home. As President Dwight D. Eisenhower left office, more than half of the federal budget was allocated for defense purposes. Eisenhower, former General of the Army, was certainly not opposed to the use of military power to keep the peace. Still, he saw fit to use his “Farewell Address” to warn the nation of the dangers posed by the “military-industrial complex,” referring to the relationship between the armed forces, the government, and the suppliers of war materials. Eisenhower was wary of the large role defense spending played in the economy, and understood the political and corporate corruption that could result if the public was not vigilant in checking it.

Worthy Excerpt:

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Read full text of speech here.

Listen to the speech.

Marcus Tullius Cicero, “The First Oration Against Catiline”

63 BC; Rome

Lucius Sergius Catilina (Catiline to his friends) was a very jealous man. Having once run against Cicero for the position of consul and lost, he became determined to win the next election by any devious method necessary. Plan A was to bribe people to vote for him, and when that didn’t work, he decided to go for bust and simply knock Cicero off on election day. This plan was ferreted out by the ever vigilant Cicero, the election was postponed, and the Senate established marital law. When the election finally was held, the murderer-cum-candidate was surprisingly trounced at the polls. Now it was time for Catiline’s Plan C: raise an army of co-conspirators, create insurrection throughout Italy, overthrow the government, and slice and dice as many Senators as they could get their coo-ky hands on. But Cicero was again one step ahead and discovered the plan. He called the Senate together for a meeting at the Temple of Jupiter in the Capitol, an orifice only used in times of great crisis. Catiline, who seriously didn’t know when he was not welcome, decided to crash the party. With his archenemy in attendance, Cicero began his Catiline Orations, a series of speeches covering how he saved Rome from rebellion, the guilt of Catiline, and the need to whack he and his cronies.

Worthy Excerpt:

I wish, O conscript fathers, to be merciful; I wish not to appear negligent amid such danger to the state; but I do now accuse myself of remissness and culpable inactivity. A camp is pitched in Italy, at the entrance of Etruria, in hostility to the republic; the number of the enemy increases every day; and yet the general of that camp, the leader of those enemies, we see within the walls-aye, and even in the senate-planning every day some internal injury to the republic. If, O Catiline, I should now order you to be arrested, to be put to death, I should, I suppose, have to fear lest all good men should say that I had acted tardily, rather than that any one should affirm that I acted cruelly. But yet this, which ought to have been done long since, I have good reason for not doing as yet; I will put you to death, then, when there shall be not one person possible to be found so wicked, so abandoned, so like yourself, as not to allow that it has been rightly done. As long as one person exists who can dare to defend you, you shall live; but you shall live as you do now, surrounded by my many and trusty guards, so that you shall not be able to stir one finger against the republic; many eyes and ears shall still observe and watch you, as they have hitherto done, tho you shall not perceive them.

Read full text of speech here.

Ronald Reagan, “Remarks at the Brandenburg Gate”

June 12, 1987; Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

Since the end of World War II, Germany had been a divided country, the West free and democratic, the East under authoritarian communist control. When President Reagan took office, he was committed not only to uniting that country, but to bringing down the entire “Evil Empire.” While the importance of Reagan’s role in successfully doing so is endlessly debated, it beyond dispute that he exerted some influence in bringing the Cold War to an end. There is no more memorable and symbolic moment of this influence then when Reagan stood at the Berlin wall, the most visible symbol of the “Iron Curtain,” and challenged Gorbachev to “tear down this wall!”

Worthy Excerpt:

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!

Read full text of speech here.

Listen to speech.

Pericles, “Funeral Oration”

431 BC; Athens

Pericles, master statesman, orator, and general, was truly, as Thuciydies dubbed him, “the first citizen of Athens.” Pericles was a product of the Sophists and had been personally tutored by the great philosopher Anaxagoras. His study with the Sophists made Pericles a highly persuasive orator. Through his speeches, he galvanized Athenians to undertake an enormous public works project that created hundreds of temples, including the Pantheon.

Pericles’ gift of oration was put to the test during the epic battles of the Peloponnesian War, a civil war between Athens and Sparta. His speeches inspired Athenians to fight to become the number one power in Greece. In February of 431 B.C., Athens had their annual public funeral to honor all those who died in war. Pericles was asked to give the traditional funeral oration. Rather than focus his speech on enumerating the conquests of Athens’ fallen heroes, Pericles instead used his funeral oration to laud the glory of Athens itself and inspire the living to make sure the soldiers had not died in vain.

Over 2,000 years later, Pericles’ funeral oration inspired Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.” Like Pericles, Lincoln was a leader during a time of civil war. Like Pericles, Lincoln focused on exhorting the living to live their lives in a way that would make the sacrifice of fallen warriors worthwhile.

Worthy Excerpt:

So died these men as became Athenians. You, their survivors, must determine to have as unfaltering a resolution in the field, though you may pray that it may have a happier issue. And not contented with ideas derived only from words of the advantages which are bound up with the defense of your country, though these would furnish a valuable text to a speaker even before an audience so alive to them as the present, you must yourselves realize the power of Athens, and feed your eyes upon her from day to day, till love of her fills your hearts; and then, when all her greatness shall break upon you, you must reflect that it was by courage, sense of duty, and a keen feeling of honor in action that men were enabled to win all this, and that no personal failure in an enterprise could make them consent to deprive their country of their valor, but they laid it at her feet as the most glorious contribution that they could offer.

Read the full text here.

General Douglas MacArthur, “Farewell Address to Congress”

April 19, 1951, Washington; D.C.

During the Korean War, General MacArthur and President Truman clashed over the threat posed by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and their incursion into Korea. MacArthur continually pressed Truman for permission to bomb bases in Manchuria, believing the war needed to be extended in area and scope. Truman refused the General’s requests, arguing that directly drawing China into the war would arouse the Soviet Union to action. MacArthur continued to press his case, and Truman, accusing the General of insubordination, made the decision to relieve MacArthur of his command. After serving for 52 years and in three wars, the General’s military career was over. MacArthur returned to the United States and gave this farewell address to Congress.

Worthy Excerpt:

I am closing my 52 years of military service. When I joined the Army, even before the turn of the century, it was the fulfillment of all of my boyish hopes and dreams. The world has turned over many times since I took the oath on the plain at West Point, and the hopes and dreams have long since vanished, but I still remember the refrain of one of the most popular barrack ballads of that day which proclaimed most proudly that “old soldiers never die; they just fade away.”

And like the old soldier of that ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away, an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty.

Good Bye.

Read full text of speech here.

Listen to the speech.

Theodore Roosevelt, “Strength and Decency”

Roosevelt was an advocate of having many children and making sure the next generation would continue to uphold the great virtues of civilization. He was always concerned that young men not be coddled or cowardly, and grow up to live rugged, strenuous, and thoroughly manly lives. But he also strongly believed that being ruggedly manly and being refined in mind and spirit were not incompatible and should in fact go hand and hand. In this speech, he exhorts young men to pursue virtuous manliness. Amen, brother, amen.

Worthy Excerpt:

It is peculiarly incumbent upon you who have strength to set a right example to others. I ask you to remember that you cannot retain your self-respect if you are loose and foul of tongue, that a man who is to lead a clean and honorable life must inevitably suffer if his speech likewise is not clean and honorable. Every man here knows the temptations that beset all of us in this world. At times any man will slip. I do not expect perfection, but I do expect genuine and sincere effort toward being decent and cleanly in thought, in word, and in deed. As I said at the outset, I hail the work of this society as typifying one of those forces which tend to the betterment and uplifting of our social system. Our whole effort should be toward securing a combination of the strong qualities with those qualities which we term virtues. I expect you to be strong. I would not respect you if you were not. I do not want to see Christianity professed only by weaklings; I want to see it a moving spirit among men of strength. I do not expect you to lose one particle of your strength or courage by being decent. On the contrary, I should hope to see each man who is a member of this society, from his membership in it become all the fitter to do the rough work of the world; all the fitter to work in time of peace; and if, which may Heaven forfend, war should come, all the fitter to fight in time of war. I desire to see in this country the decent men strong and the strong men decent, and until we get that combination in pretty good shape we are not going to be by any means as successful as we should be. There is always a tendency among very young men and among boys who are not quite young men as yet to think that to be wicked is rather smart; to think it shows that they are men. Oh, how often you see some young fellow who boasts that he is going to “see life,” meaning by that that he is going to see that part of life which it is a thousandfold better should remain unseen!

Read full text of speech here.

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{ 174 comments… read them below or add one }

101 Mike March 17, 2010 at 2:39 am

I. The disciples had little motivation to lie.

A. Not only was it contrary to their strict morality, it would gain them nothing.

B. Being a Christian back then was a ticket to ridicule and persecution. They were promised the same fate as their Master (Matt. 10:23-25).

C. Every apostle except John (who probably died a natural death) was killed because of his belief in Jesus. In other words, they signed their testimony in blood.

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II. In a court of law these writers would qualify as the very best of witnesses.

A. In court, the testimony of a witness can be impeached by one of five lines of attack:

1. By proving that the witness, on a previous occasion, has made statements inconsistent with his present testimony.

2. By demonstrating bias in the witness.

3. By attacking the character of the witness.

4. By questioning the capacity in the witness to observe, remember, or recount the matters testified about.

5. By proving through other witnesses that material facts are otherwise than as testified.

B. The testimony of these men is not vulnerable to any of these charges:

1. There is no conflicting or inconsistent testimony.

a. There is no evidence that the Gospel writers claimed at a previous time that the events in question never happened.

b. Instead, they began proclaiming the salient facts from the outset and those facts didn’t change.

2. The issue of bias and self-interest strengthens the credibility of the witnesses’ testimony rather than weakens it.

a. The lives of the witnesses to Jesus Christ were continually in peril. In many cases the early Christians were driven underground into hiding, yet they clung fervently to their testimony, affirming the teachings of Jesus and His resurrection from the dead.

b. For this testimony they were crucified en mass, fed to the lions, sacrificed by Roman gladiators, beheaded or made into human torches.

c. One simple thing would have saved them this torment: recanting their testimony. These witnesses did exactly the opposite of what self-interest would dictate.

3. There is no evidence to impugn the witnesses’ character, indicating that they might be lying.

Not only was it totally inconsistent with the moral standard they professed and lived by, but also there was no motivation to fabricate.

4. The unique nature of the events and the nature of the testimony lend themselves to accurate observation and recall.

a. Their is no direct evidence that the witnesses’ capacity to observe was distorted.

b. The accounts are clear and lucid, giving an abundance of detail.

c. The accounts read like the testimony of one intimately acquainted with the facts of the issue, someone who was personally involved with the process, who was proximal to the events in question, and who had repeated opportunity to observe those events.

d. Matthew and John personally made visual identification of the risen Christ, an individual they had spent more than three years with in intimate, personal contact.

5. John and Matthew corroborate each other and are supported by other extraneous evidence.

a. Disproving the facts of the first witness is generally accomplished using the testimony of a second witness. When we compare the testimony of the eyewitnesses John and Matthew, however, we find that their accounts mesh.

b. Their accounts also coincide with the historical summaries given by Luke, the companion of Paul, and Mark, the Apostle Peter’s companion.

c. Since each one’s experience with Jesus was not the same, there are some differences, as you’d expect.

1) There is sufficient unanimity between the witnesses to demonstrate corroboration.

2) But there is sufficient variation in details and viewpoints in the accounts to eliminate the charge of collaboration.

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102 em*gem March 21, 2010 at 3:35 pm

@the student world who understands that point in the essay when all inspiration catches a breeze and leaves you completely and all of the websites all seem to say the same thing that doesn’t help…

…I really was looking for Bobby Kennedy’s address on Martin Luther King Jr.’s assignation…that is what this wretched essay is on. The funny part is that it was a pretty fun essay- I was rather passionate about the subject-until I contracted writer’s block…oh well. I also agree with whoever said Gen. Patton should have made the cut.

103 rifai April 2, 2010 at 6:22 am

Great compilation of speeches. we, as Indonesian, also have an outstanding orator in our great history, called Soekarno.check and see how powerful and provoking his speeches were.good luck!!!

104 Eric April 3, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Fantastic list, I agree with all the choices (and was pleased to learn of some I didn’t know before). I have another strong contender, not delivered by a man, but well worthy of this list: Queen Elizabeth I’s speech at Tilbury, to rally the English militia against the Spanish Armada invasion force:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speech_to_the_Troops_at_Tilbury

105 Andrew April 8, 2010 at 1:17 am

i agree with all of these speeches listed here as being great speeches except for the speech by “jesus christ” i cant understand why you would list a speech given by a fictional character.

106 dnietz April 12, 2010 at 6:20 am

considering that MLK had several historic and often quoted speeches and that other leaders also did (like malcolm) and that several of the people listed were listed multiple times……. i would say that this list is definitely ethno centric towards anglo people

and what is this throwing in fictional mythical characters from 2000 years ago, or poorly documented speeches given on the other side of the world by people long long ago before accurate history?

it makes the list just a list of some of your favorites, and not what the title says.

107 Rans April 12, 2010 at 4:13 pm

How about Halie selasis speech to the UN?

On the question of racial discrimination, the Addis Ababa Conference taught, to those who will learn, this further lesson: That until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned: That until there are no longer first-class and second class citizens of any nation; That until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained; And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes that hold our brothers in Angola, in Mozambique and in South Africa in subhuman bondage have been toppled and destroyed; Until bigotry and prejudice and malicious and inhuman self-interest have been replaced by understanding and tolerance and good-will; Until all Africans stand and speak as free beings, equal in the eyes of all men, as they are in the eyes of Heaven; Until that day, the African continent will not know peace. We Africans will fight, if necessary, and we know that we shall win, as we are confident in the victory of good over evil.

108 Sean April 14, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Probably my favorite post here . Well done.

109 Sam April 17, 2010 at 7:56 am

I entirely agree with your post about Emperor Haille Selassie. He deserves a place in this list.

110 William Jennings Bryan April 17, 2010 at 10:51 pm

“Having behind us the producing masses of this nation and the world, supported by the commercial interests, the laboring interests and the toilers everywhere, we will answer their demand 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.”

William Jennings Bryan

111 liman April 23, 2010 at 10:26 pm

Prophet Muhammad’s last sermon speech. check it out!

112 Joseph Caselli May 10, 2010 at 3:02 pm

If I may add Mark Antony’s speech after the death of Caesar. His words laid the foundation of the Roman Empire by turning public opinion against Brutus and the other conspirators.

113 Prakash Narayanan May 11, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Consider adding Jawaharlal Nehru`s ‘TRYST WITH DESTINY’ speech commemorating India`s independence, and considered one of the 20th century`s landmark speeches. The impact of India`s independence on the crumbling of British colonialism cannot be underestimated, and that speech encapsulated it superbly.

114 Bill Morgan May 24, 2010 at 7:48 pm

Ronald Reagan had several speeches on the list, but I thought one more was worth mentioning: “A Time for Choosing” in which he endorsed Barry Goldwater for president in 1964. Many see this speech as the beginning of Reagan’s rise in politics which culminated in his 1980 landslide victory over Carter. Considering the changesMany things Reagan said then are still echoing now. For example:

“Yet anytime you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we are denounced as being against their humanitarian goals. They say we are always “against” things, never “for” anything.”

Aren’t we, even now, seeing this same story playing out in America’s national politics? Or how about this:

“Last February 19 at the University of Minnesota, Norman Thomas, six-time candidate for President on the Socialist Party ticket, said, “If Barry Goldwater became President, he would stop the advance of socialism in the United States.” I think that’s exactly what he will do.

As a former Democrat, I can tell you Norman Thomas isn’t the only man who has drawn this parallel to socialism with the present administration. Back in 1936, Mr. Democrat himself, Al Smith, the great American, came before the American people and charged that the leadership of his party was taking the part of Jefferson, Jackson, and Cleveland down the road under the banners of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin. And he walked away from his party, and he never returned to the day he died, because to this day, the leadership of that party has been taking that party, that honorable party, down the road in the image of the labor socialist party of England. Now it doesn’t require expropriation or confiscation of private property or business to impose socialism on a people. What does it mean whether you hold the deed or the title to your business or property if the government holds the power of life and death over that business or property?”

It may not be in the top 35, but it is a speech worth reading.

115 Casey June 6, 2010 at 8:56 pm

brett you have a hard job to do defending every one of these speeches and i give you credit for it

116 Andrew June 8, 2010 at 4:25 am

@Brett: Great selection of speeches. Of course it will be somewhat biased in favor of Western orators, but even if those are not the 35 greatest speeches ever, it’s YOUR blog and YOUR prerogative to publish YOUR list!

To everyone who is being critical and self-righteous with their remarkable scope of cultural breadth and knowledge *yawn*, you’re wonderfully well-read and versed and we applaud you. There, is that what you wanted to hear? Seriously, if you didn’t make a valid suggestion or back up your attack with something other than smug and pompous vitriol, get a life. I defy you to come up with a more eclectic list and go to the effort of publishing it. Then come back and maybe we’ll listen. Also, look closer: MLK is included!

As for my own suggestion, someone mentioned a speech by Ataturk, but it was another (very short one) of his speeches that really caught my attention. On the 1934 memorial of the WWI Battle of Gallipoli, he spoke these words regarding the Australian and New Zealand forces who lost their lives in the battle:

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours… You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”

117 James June 10, 2010 at 12:41 pm

MARTIN LUTHER KING???????????????

118 Joe June 16, 2010 at 9:56 pm

This post is bias, where is MARTIN LUTHER KING “I Have A Dream”. Every other site has stated that its the best speech of all times, but yet its not here because he is black. What a shame.

I Have A Dream, That One Day MLK Speech Will Be Posted Here!!!

119 Kenny June 16, 2010 at 10:02 pm

Now that Joe, my neighbor, has made his state his opinion, I can use the computer (lol). I guess I will make a brief statement and say that you made great selections, however, you certainly left out Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. If we are judging based concerted on oratorical skills, those two should definitely be amongst the top 10 of the 35. Another individual that you excluded was Adolf Hitler. As I stated before, we may disagree with politics or even hate certain individuals, but based on oratorical skills he was near the top also. Thanks for listening.

120 Brett McKay June 16, 2010 at 11:21 pm

As has been stated before, MLK is on there. MLK IS ON THE THIRD PAGE. THERE ARE 4 PAGES TO THIS POST. PLEASE READ THEM BEFORE COMMENTING!!!!!!

121 .Trevor Storey June 18, 2010 at 9:07 pm

You mention speeches from the US but what about other countries in Australia we had a Prime Minister that gave an incredible speech looking to the US instead of Britian during World War 11 for protection from invasion, he died in office. Was honoured by General MacCarther.

122 shie July 27, 2010 at 9:33 am

Why isn’t Bush in this list? :)

123 Ken K. Ndori July 31, 2010 at 5:01 am

Thanks for the great work! However, I expected atleast one of Obama’s speeches to have found its place in history! I guess you’re working on this!

124 Speedy Vee August 1, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Some people….. Last I checked, Brett and anyone he wished to be a contributor are those that are responsible for whatever message the AoM portrays. You are reading a list on a BLOG, people….. a blog that is biased towards its message. If you don’t like the name of the post, think about context – “The 35 Greatest Speeches in History,” by the AoM (which is another way of saying the 35 greatest speeches in history that exemplify manliness as defined from this website)..

Each one of the speeches not only meets the prerequisites outlined in the post, but also exemplify the virtues and characteristics (read as bias) of what this website is built around. Which is, after all – the point of the websites blog – providing real life examples of manliness. Last time I checked, the poster is the subject matter expert for his own website. It doesn’t make him the subject matter expert in manliness as whole, but it does as defined by his website, which everyone here is visiting.

If you do not agree, why are you not angered about posts “Bringing back the hat” because it doesn’t include turbans, berets, gigantic Roman Catholic bishop hats or yarmulke? It is because in those posts, you realize the context of the website. Manliness as defined by this website, which I don’t know if you realize it, but tends to be based around that of the hardworking American family man of the 40s, 50s and 60s with a dash of Victorian influences and the ideology reflected of those times.

The unfortunate circumstances of those also being times of civil rights strife are virtues that the poster does not promote, but based on the ideology – or even the mythos surrounding his target, it is easy to see why some postings are “Anglo-centric.” This is something the poster tries to make aware to all of us, and includes things as best he can from his perspective. As far as this website being “Ameri-centric,” the entire website is. And there is information that applies to America’s history that relates to different audiences. For instance, how Americans practiced courting, chivalry and politics in it’s early years were a direct reflection of its birth as English colonies. Other manly tasks were derived from age old work ethics and practices of the millions of immigrants from all over the Earth. So, the inspiration for this blog and website, while spanning cultures and timelines, is still “Anglo and Ameri-centric,” and should make no apologies for being so. Obviously something about it provokes your readership.

But next time, put some forethought into the context of your arguments before you make them. Or feel free to make your own website, hire thousands of philosophers and academics, have them pour over millions of speeches, and then feel free to publish “The 35 Greatest Speeches in World History………. as provided by this list of Academics and other Know-hards.” And your list will still be wrong because there is no way that everyone would ever come to that kind of agreement on so trivial an issue.

Take the point, read and listen to those speeches provided by the author, and if it moves you (whether emotionally, or to do your own research and find your own arguments), he has reached his goal. Your whining about it not being the best list is subjective at best and mars the reading of this website at worst.

125 Cj August 1, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Nice list. I will add, without a doubt Robert F. Kennedy’s speech on the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. (on scholarly lists of top American speeches). See text of speech below the video at: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/rfkonmlkdeath.html Especially of note what Razzbar mentioned of “Delivery, Content and Consequence”. The speech was delivered on short notice, and the consequence of it was said to have been a major contributing factor in that Indianapolis was one of the few/only major cities without a riot resulting from the assassination. Heartfelt and pure as any speech.

126 Nick August 2, 2010 at 1:27 am

@Brett – maybe your next posting is about how a real man doesn’t whine about the works of others unless he is willing to layout his own work for public scrutiny.

For crying out loud people – it is Brett’s opinion on a blog. Not something that is engraved in stone tablets. Most of these people would have criticized JFK when he wrote Profiles in Courage because he didn’t include somebody from “insert country / ethnic group / political viewpoint here”

I will humbly add a speech from my own father, “Easy to criticize the player for dropping the pass from the comfort of your easy chair”

127 Tim in Memphis August 2, 2010 at 7:08 am

Glaring omission:

LIBERTY OR DEATH
Patrick Henry

128 Tim in Memphis August 2, 2010 at 7:28 am

Oops! Missed it. Stupid iPhone (user)!
Great list, & kudos for including the Frederick Douglass speech.

129 shreekumar k p August 21, 2010 at 4:33 am

An amazing compilation!!!!

130 Prasanna September 20, 2012 at 7:00 am

Steve Jobs’s Stanford Commencement speech (best of that decade)

131 NZEYIMANA LEANDRE October 22, 2012 at 12:56 am

Thank you fo displaying those speeches.But i thing u didn’t get enough information because there are other speeches which are great but u didn’t get interest to them.for instance RWAGASORE’s speech the burundian heroe of independence.Thomas SANKARA’s and so on.most speeches u talking about have been held in English except the one of charles De Gaule.next time you consider others held in other languages.

132 P.G. Joseph November 6, 2012 at 1:08 am

Yes, you have missed out “Tryst with Destiny” by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on the eve of India’s Independence in 1947. Sad indeed! Better rectify this unpardonable omission of one of the greatest speeches of all times.

133 lsjames November 6, 2012 at 1:24 am

A very well written piece providing very provocative discourse. I have only one suggestion…Charlie Chaplin’s character The Barber’s address from the film “The Great Dictator”. Fictional, I know…but a worthy addition I believe. For what is more manly than disregarding a commonly held stigma, and showing sensitivity, tolerance, and understanding…and yes even sensitivity. Traits I see repeated in many of these great and memorable orations.

134 Narain November 19, 2012 at 1:19 pm

RFK!!!! HE IS MISSING FROM THE LIST ROBERT F KENNEDY PLEASE

135 Jack December 4, 2012 at 6:30 pm

I’m sure MacArther did want to bomb Chinese bases during the Korean war…probably to cover his own heinous war crimes in agreeing not to prosecute Japan’s Unit 731 in exchange for what they learned performing live vivisections of Chinese men, women and children. The Nazi’s had one Joseph Mengele, but the Japanese had 2000 working in mainland China, committing torture of innocents on an unprecedented scale. MacArthur failed to prosecute even one for war crimes though he had full knowledge of what the Japanese did. Is that what a man does? No, I’m sorry, but that’s what a coward does. Some people might say that’s just part of war, and for those who people I have two words: Erwin Rommel. There can be dignity and humanity even in war, but let me assure you that MacArthur was not an example of it.

136 Ignorant December 6, 2012 at 1:42 am

You have done a splendid job here. But did it in a one eyed manner. you ignored or may be you even don’t know about Muslim orator’s speeches. You could include Muhammad (pbuh) speeches and his companion’s they have really very rich history from where we can learn many things. knowledge is not confined within a race or group or nation rather its everywhere. So don’t be one eyed and go through the speeches of Muslim orators you will find many splendid speeches that created a different momentum in the history of world and helped this world to reach where it is now.

137 vishwarath nayar January 4, 2013 at 11:24 pm

commendable effort. we should appreciate what has been done and not sit on judgement about what is missed out, for there could be as many suggestions as there are people expressing their opinion on this issue. it is bits of positive energy being generated to usher large constructive impact. thanks & regards.

138 Directo January 14, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Malcom X is great orator of de 20th century,

139 Bot1988 January 14, 2013 at 3:07 pm

” I’m sorry. I don’t want to be an emperor, that’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone.”

140 LAKSHMI January 28, 2013 at 5:02 am

Please include the Swami Vivekananda’s 1893 Chicago speech AT WORLD PARLIAMENT OF RELIGION, CHICAGO.

THE BEST SPEECH EVER

141 LAKSHMI January 28, 2013 at 5:02 am
142 maale January 29, 2013 at 7:39 am

just like everything here as an aspiring leader in africa, i need more of good methods and good approach to speaches

143 Michael February 3, 2013 at 12:43 pm

This is a fantastic list! All of those listed have impacted the world in a great way and made this place better for all of us. However, one person on that list should not be there. Jesus Christ. The author chose for some reason to bring in a fictitious character from a book written thousands of years ago. I ask you, where are Zeus’s speeches? or Apollo’s. Maybe even bring Vishnu or Mirtha, or Horus’s speeches? The inclusion of Christ takes a lot of legitimacy and thoughtfulness out of the post.

144 George Odong Otto February 17, 2013 at 10:55 am

It is important to understand the past in order to build the future. These speeches are quite interesting and strong lessons to facilitate decision making that take care of dignity, freedom and justice at home and everywhere.

145 Jesse February 26, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Thank you so much for compiling this wonderful resource. I teach High School English and this is a tremendous collection to teach to my group of up-and-coming orators. Much appreciated.

146 Pewee D. Kolubah March 7, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Thank God for this site because it helping many people to do their resurch on great orators in the world.

147 Augustin May 12, 2013 at 3:56 pm

To those concerned about MLK’s speech… It’s on the third page

148 Sarah May 15, 2013 at 7:26 am

This list is awesome .. speacially Chief Joseph

149 SEKA June 1, 2013 at 9:04 am

Where are Martin Luther King’s speech. I have a dream, the greatest speeches made by President Gbagbo, Gandhi’s speeches, Mandela’s. For sure I’m still hungry because the western world is too priviledged here.

150 fraz July 1, 2013 at 12:14 am

a very enjoyable post, congratulations!

the comments would be a lot less if it was titled, “The 35 Greatest Speeches in History of Mostly the USA”, but then where’s the fun? :)

151 Arthur G. Brina July 16, 2013 at 2:14 pm

This is a great selection; and I note that you have already 2 speeches among the list, which were given by Theodore Roosevelt. But I wish you had included his “New Nationalism” speech of August 31, 1910. Perhaps you could make it no: 36; or replace his April 1910 speech with the one made in Kansas.

152 Evan Millsap July 27, 2013 at 8:09 am

A fantastic collection of speeches, and although everyone may have a beloved speech or two they feel got left out, I think almost everyone can agree (if they actually take the time to read ALL four pages) that most of these speeches are some of the best ever given.

153 Cle August 28, 2013 at 10:26 am

Wonderful list!!! This could be an entire class syllabus on oration. Bravo!

154 will August 28, 2013 at 12:02 pm

This list is too heavily biased towards America. In Verrem by Cicero, Res Gestae by Augustus, Pro Caelio by Cicero. None of Hitler’s speeches? while pure evil he was one of the most moving orators ever. There were speeches by Plato, Apuleius’ Apologia, Queen Elizabeth’s speech prior to the Armada, speeches by Danton and Robespierre, Napoleon’s speeches. There are many more but the point is that oratory has not been completely dominated by America, there are many other speeches that were neglected due to an America-centric perspective

155 Dustin August 29, 2013 at 4:47 am

Very good list. One that I thought der served to be on here, but was not, was charlie chaplin’s speech from the great dictator. Maybe it didn’t meet the qualifications because it was from a move and not a stand alone speech like the others. Anyway, for those who have not seen that speech should watch it.

156 Richard September 3, 2013 at 12:11 pm

I haven’t read other comments yet. I think we should add Hitler’s speeches if we’re talking about dramatically delivered speeches. The ideas might be different, but his speech captures the audience.

157 Paul September 25, 2013 at 12:36 am

JFK’s Rice Decision to Go to the Moon speech was actually September 12, 1962. May 25, 1961 was when he propositioned congress on going to the moon.

158 Newt October 8, 2013 at 10:10 pm

I believe Charlie Chaplain’s speech from the Great Dictator should be included here, we have forgotten so much on how to be human and how to be who we truly are and his speech defines that. I personally feel it is the greatest speech ever made. The other speeches did not move me at all compared to Charlie Chaplain’s speech

159 Gregory October 11, 2013 at 6:35 am

I think Hitlers speeches should be included in here too. Regardless of what kind of man he was and what he represented, we cannot deny the fact that he was of the greatest orators in the world.

160 Nasir Jawed October 12, 2013 at 2:58 am

Just read the Last Sermon of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and compare it with any of the speeches that have been mentioned here particularly in terms of the brevity of the speech, timing of the speech and the reach of the content of the speech.
Thanks

161 nust October 12, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Two of THE best speeches in history have been brutally ignored:

1. The Last Sermon Of The Holy Prophet
2. Jinnah’s address on August 14, 1948 to the nation.

162 Brad October 31, 2013 at 4:00 pm

It is striking how many people are commenting that Jesus and MLK should have been placed on this list when they were indeed on this list.

163 Manish November 20, 2013 at 6:44 am

i think the purpose of this post was to share a few inspiring speeches delivered by great men. and to showcase the importance, these speeches held in changing things.

if after reading these texts, one feels inspired to bring change in himself/the world around him, the purpose of this post has been served.

if someone feels some other noteworthy speeches, which could be equally inspiring are missing, they can add the links to them too.

instead of criticizing and indulging in negativity, this way , we can all be greatly benefited by some other inspiring works.

164 sammy November 26, 2013 at 6:45 am

these speeches are g8 and very inspiriting

165 Devin December 1, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Good Article. Good Speeches.

166 JImmy December 5, 2013 at 2:57 pm

The Martin Luther King Jr. speech was not what i expected,… actually better than what i thought. hearing his voice really touched me in a historical way. i felt like i was at the speech myself.

167 Vijayakumar NL December 23, 2013 at 1:44 am

Really a good article…….
But I expect Swamy Vivegandha Speech at Chicago… It was the best speech I heard from others. You didn’t include disappointing for me also wonder how they missed his great speech for a word of “All My Brothers and sisters” on behalf of Indian legendary speakers for young blood.

168 Peter UK January 12, 2014 at 2:31 pm

Too much US bias – Reagan? Does he beat Tim Collins speech in the Iraq war:

“We go to liberate, not to conquer.
We will not fly our flags in their country. We are entering Iraq to free a people and the only flag which will be flown in that ancient land is their own.
Show respect for them.
There are some who are alive at this moment who will not be alive shortly.
Those who do not wish to go on that journey, we will not send.
As for the others, I expect you to rock their world.
Wipe them out if that is what they choose.
But if you are ferocious in battle remember to be magnanimous in victory.
Iraq is steeped in history.
It is the site of the Garden of Eden, of the Great Flood and the birthplace of Abraham.
Tread lightly there.
You will see things that no man could pay to see
- and you will have to go a long way to find a more decent, generous and upright people than the Iraqis.
You will be embarrassed by their hospitality even though they have nothing.
Don’t treat them as refugees for they are in their own country.
Their children will be poor, in years to come they will know that the light of liberation in their lives was brought by you.
If there are casualties of war then remember that when they woke up and got dressed in the morning they did not plan to die this day.
Allow them dignity in death.
Bury them properly and mark their graves.
It is my foremost intention to bring every single one of you out alive.
But there may be people among us who will not see the end of this campaign.
We will put them in their sleeping bags and send them back.
There will be no time for sorrow.
The enemy should be in no doubt that we are his nemesis and that we are bringing about his rightful destruction.
There are many regional commanders who have stains on their souls and they are stoking the fires of hell for Saddam.
He and his forces will be destroyed by this coalition for what they have done.
As they die they will know their deeds have brought them to this place. Show them no pity.
It is a big step to take another human life.
It is not to be done lightly.
I know of men who have taken life needlessly in other conflicts.
I can assure you they live with the mark of Cain upon them.
If someone surrenders to you then remember they have that right in international law and ensure that one day they go home to their family.
The ones who wish to fight, well, we aim to please.
If you harm the regiment or its history by over-enthusiasm in killing or in cowardice, know it is your family who will suffer.
You will be shunned unless your conduct is of the highest – for your deeds will follow you down through history.
We will bring shame on neither our uniform or our nation.
It is not a question of if, it’s a question of when.
We know he has already devolved the decision to lower commanders, and that means he has already taken the decision himself.
If we survive the first strike we will survive the attack.
As for ourselves, let’s bring everyone home and leave Iraq a better place for us having been there.
Our business now is North.

169 Gianina Ocava January 14, 2014 at 12:05 am

Where can i find this speeches aside from the internet??do they have books that contains greatest speeches?

170 Ian Bratt January 15, 2014 at 2:51 am

Great collection of speeches.
One factual error which I picked up. Kennedy’s “The decision to go to the moon” speech was actually presented on 12 Sep 1962. Some 16 months earlier, on 25th May 1961 (the date indicated), he addressed the US Congress and proclaimed that “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”

171 Ian Bratt January 15, 2014 at 2:53 am

There is a great book “501 must-know speeches”. Some of the ‘speeches’ are little more than quotes but it also contains many speeches of substance. Available from Amazon at around $11.

172 K.Dot January 21, 2014 at 3:56 pm

What about Nelson Mandela’s innaguration or his “Ideal I’m Prepared To Die” speech…or Thabo Mbeki’s “I’m An African”…

173 Okello Martin Opio March 10, 2014 at 9:56 am

Wonderful! It’s not just a matter of reading the “greatest speeches in history” but rather to internalize and make use of them. I have learnt a lot that these people were committed and working for the benefit their nations not merely for their individual benefits. Lastly, thanks to this web site.

174 liam scolari March 31, 2014 at 2:12 am

It was really good for my study on speeches.
Thank you for this website

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