The 35 Greatest Speeches in History

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

in A Man's Life, Manly Knowledge

Abraham Lincoln, “2nd Inaugural Address”

March 4, 1865; Washington, D.C.

The Union’s victory was but a month away as Abraham Lincoln began his second term as president of a bitterly ruptured United States. Like the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln keeps this speech only as long as needful. While there are those who still debate whether the Civil War was truly fought over slavery or not, Lincoln certainly believed so. To him, slavery was a great national sin, and the blood shed during the war was the atoning sacrifice for that evil.

He does not relish the prospect of coming victory; instead, he appeals to his countrymen to remember that the war was truly fought between brothers. When the war was over and the Confederacy forced to return to the Union, Lincoln was prepared to treat the South with relative leniency. He did not believe secession was truly possible, and thus the South had never truly left the Union. Reconstruction would not mean vengeance, but the return home of a terribly errant son.

Worthy Excerpt:

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.

Read full text of speech here.

Patrick Henry, “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!”

March 23, 1775; Richmond, VA

For a decade, revolutionary sentiments had been brewing in Virginia and Patrick Henry had always been in the thick of it, stirring the pot. Henry became particularly enflamed by the Stamp Act of 1764, which prompted him to give his so-called “treason speech,” spurring the Burgesses to pass the Virginia Resolves banning the act. Tensions between the colonies and the Crown continued to build, and in 1775, Massachusetts patriots began making preparations for war. Henry believed that Virginia should follow suit. At a meeting held in St. John’s Church in Richmond, Henry presented resolutions to make ready Virginia’s defenses. Seeking to persuade his fellow delegates of the urgency of his message, he gave a rousing and memorable speech, climaxing is that now famous line, “Give me liberty of give me death!”

Worthy Excerpt:

The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable — and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come!

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!

Read full text of speech here.

Ronald Reagan, “40th Anniversary of D-Day”

June 6, 1984; Pointe du Hoc, France

What the Army Rangers did on D-Day at Pointe Du Hoc is a tale every man worth his salt should be familiar with. Pointe du Hoc was a sheer 100 foot cliff located in-between Omaha and Utah beaches. Perched atop the cliff sat six casemates capable of being manned, armed, and taking out the men on the beaches. As the Germans fired upon them, the Rangers scaled the cliff using ropes and ladders, found the guns (which had been moved from the casemates) and destroyed them. Without reinforcements for two days, the Rangers alone held their position and fended off German counterattacks. These skirmishes proved deadly; only 90 of the original 225 Ranger landing force survived.

On the 40th anniversary of D-Day, President Reagan gave a moving tribute to these men, many of whom were present at the occasion.

Worthy Excerpt:

These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.

Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender’s poem. You are men who in your ‘lives fought for life…and left the vivid air signed with your honor’…

Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith, and belief; it was loyalty and love.

The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge — and pray God we have not lost it — that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.

Read full text of speech here.

Listen to the speech.

John F. Kennedy, “The Decision to Go to the Moon”

May 25, 1961; Houston, TX

On April 12, 1961, the Soviets launched the first man into space. Khrushchev used this triumph as prime evidence of communism’s superiority over decadent capitalism. Embarrassed, the United States feared it was falling behind the Soviet Union and losing the “space race.” After consulting with political and NASA officials, Kennedy decided it was time for America to boldly go where no man had gone before by putting a man on the moon. The feat would not only catapult the nation over the Soviet Union, but also allow man to more fully explore the mysteries of space. And this mission would be accomplished by the end of the 1960′s. When was the last time a president had the cajones to publicly issue a straightforward, ambitious goal and set a timeline for its success?

Worthy Excerpt:

There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

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 full text of speech here.

Listen to speech.

Frederick Douglass, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”

July 5, 1852; Rochester, NY

Frederick Douglass, former slave, abolitionist, and engineer on the underground railroad, was a popular speaker on the anti-slavery circuit. He traveled thousands of miles each year, giving hundreds of speeches. Yet the money he earned from lecturing was not enough to become financially comfortable, and he and his family struggled. Douglass was disillusioned by the repercussions of the Fugitive Slave Act, and his abolitionist leanings grew more strident and bold. If the citizens of Rochester, New York had expected to be flattered by Douglass when they asked him to speak on the Fourth, they were soon disavowed of that idea. Douglass took the opportunity to defiantly point out the ripe hypocrisy of a nation celebrating their ideals of freedom and equality while simultaneously mired in the evil of slavery. While the speech surely made even the most liberal audience members squirm; nonetheless, the crowed let loose in “universal applause” when Douglass finished.

Worthy Excerpt:

I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you this day rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?

Read full text of speech here.

General Douglas MacArthur, “Duty, Honor, Country”

May 12, 1962; West Point, New York

General Douglas MacArthur, General of the Army and a man who fought in three wars, knew something of “Duty, Honor, Country.” In 1962, MacArthur was in the twilight of his life and came to West Point to accept the Sylvanus Thayer Award and participate in his final cadet roll call. His address reflects upon and celebrates the brave and courageous men who came before, men he personally led, men who embodied “Duty, Honor, Country.”

There are many great speeches in this list, but I hope you will pause to read the entirety of this one. Picking an excerpt was quite difficult, as so many of the passages are inspiring. A must read for all men.

Worthy Excerpt:

You are the leaven which binds together the entire fabric of our national system of defense. From your ranks come the great captains who hold the nation’s destiny in their hands the moment the war tocsin sounds. The Long Gray Line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses thundering those magic words: Duty, Honor, Country.

This does not mean that you are war mongers.

On the contrary, the soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.

But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of all philosophers: “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”

The shadows are lengthening for me. The twilight is here. My days of old have vanished, tone and tint. They have gone glimmering through the dreams of things that were. Their memory is one of wondrous beauty, watered by tears, and coaxed and caressed by the smiles of yesterday. I listen vainly, but with thirsty ears, for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll. In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield.

But in the evening of my memory, always I come back to West Point.

Always there echoes and re-echoes: Duty, Honor, Country.

Read full text of speech here.

Listen to the speech.

Theodore Roosevelt, “Citizenship in a Republic”

April 23, 1910; Paris, France

At the end of Theodore Roosevelt’s second term in office, he set out to tour Africa and Europe, hoping to allow his successor, President Taft, to step into the enormous shoes TR had left and become his own man. After a safari in Africa, he traveled throughout Europe. While in France, he was invited to speak at the historic University of Paris. Roosevelt used the opportunity to deliver a powerful address on the requirements of citizenship, the characteristics which would keep democracies like France and the United States robust and strong. This speech is famous for the “man in the arena” quote, but the entire speech is an absolute must read.

Worthy Excerpt:

Let the man of learning, the man of lettered leisure, beware of that queer and cheap temptation to pose to himself and to others as a cynic, as the man who has outgrown emotions and beliefs, the man to whom good and evil are as one. The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer. There are many men who feel a kind of twister pride in cynicism; there are many who confine themselves to criticism of the way others do what they themselves dare not even attempt. There is no more unhealthy being, no man less worthy of respect, than he who either really holds, or feigns to hold, an attitude of sneering disbelief toward all that is great and lofty, whether in achievement or in that noble effort which, even if it fails, comes to second achievement. A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticise work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life’s realities – all these are marks, not as the possessor would fain to think, of superiority but of weakness. They mark the men unfit to bear their part painfully in the stern strife of living, who seek, in the affection of contempt for the achievements of others, to hide from others and from themselves in their own weakness. The rôle is easy; there is none easier, save only the rôle of the man who sneers alike at both criticism and performance.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Read full text of speech here.

Winston Churchill, “Blood, Sweat, and Tears”

May 13, 1940; House of Commons, London

Winston Churchill’s first speech to the House of Commons as Britain’s new Prime Minister got off to an auspicious start. His welcome to that assembly was quite tepid, while outgoing PM Neville Chamberlain was enthusiastically applauded (the world did not yet know just how disastrous his appeasement policies would prove and did not trust Churchill). But Churchill’s first speech, the first of three powerful oratories he gave during the Battle of France, would prove that England was in more than capable hands. A seemingly unstoppable Hitler was advancing rapidly across Europe, and Churchill wasted no time in calling his people to arms. While TR had actually been the first to utter the phrase, “blood, sweat and tears,” it was Churchill’s use of these words that would leave an inedible and inspiring impression upon the world’s mind.

Worthy Excerpt

I say to the House as I said to ministers who have joined this 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 months of struggle and suffering.

You ask, what is our policy? I say it is to wage war by land, sea, and air. War with all our might and with all the strength God has given us, and 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. It is victory. Victory at all costs – Victory in spite of all terrors – Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.

Read full text of speech here.

Listen to the speech.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation”

December 8, 1941; Washington, D.C.

The attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, shocked the United States to its core, outraging a nation that had hoped to stay out of the mounting turmoil in Asia and Europe. Overnight, the country united in desire to enter the war. The day after the attacks, FDR addressed the nation in a brief, but electrifying speech, declaring war on Japan and giving assurance that the United States would attain victory.

Be sure to listen to the audio of the speech. Imagine every American family, rattled and worried, listening around the radio to what their president would say. They knew their whole world was about to change forever. Listen to the reaction of Congress as they applaud and cheer FDR’s words. The emotion is so very real and palatable; it truly transports you back to that critical moment in time.

Worthy Excerpt:

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives: 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…..

But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us. 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 believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces-with the unbounding determination of our people-we will gain the inevitable triumph-so help us God.

Read the full text here.

Listen to the speech.

Jesus Christ, “The Sermon on the Mount”

33 A.D.; Jerusalem

Whether one believes that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God or simply a wise teacher, it is impossible to deny the impact of perhaps the world’s most famous speech: The Sermon on the Mount. No speech has been more pondered, more influential, or more quoted. It introduced a prayer now familiar the world over and uttered in trenches, churches, and bedsides around the globe. It introduced a code of conduct billions of believers have adopted as their lofty, if not not always attainable, goal. While much of the sermon has roots in Jewish law, the advice given in the Beatitudes represented a dramatic and radical departure from the eye for an eye system of justice known in the ancient world. The standards of behavior outlined in the sermon have given believers and non-believers alike plenty to contemplate and discuss in the two thousand years since it was given.

Worthy Excerpt:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after
righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the
children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake:
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

See Matthew Chapter 5-7 for full text.

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

August 28, 1963; Washington, D.C.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech” is hands down one of the greatest, if not the greatest, pieces of oratory in American history. King’s charisma, skills in rhetoric, and passion, place him in a league of his own. A century after slavery ended, a century after African-Americans were promised full equality, black children were being hosed down in the streets, spat upon, bused to separate schools, turned away from restaurants, and denied treatment as full human beings. In this midst of this egregious track record, Dr. King voiced a clear, compelling message of hope, a dream that things would not always be as they were, and that a new day was coming.

Many people have seen excerpts of the speech, but a surprisingly number of adults my age I have never sat down and watched the speech in its entirety. I challenge you to do just that. It is just as electrifying and moving today as it was in 1963.

Worthy Excerpt:

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!”

Read full text of speech here.

Listen to the 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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