The 35 Greatest Speeches in History

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

in A Man's Life, Manly Knowledge

If a man wishes to become a great orator, he must first become a student of the great orators who have come before him. He must immerse himself in their texts, listening for the turns of phrases and textual symmetries, the pauses and crescendos, the metaphors and melodies that have enabled the greatest speeches to stand the test of time.

There was not currently a resource on the web to my liking that offered the man who wished to study the greatest orations of all time-from ancient to modern-not only a list of the speeches but a link to the text and a paragraph outlining the context in which the speech was given. So we decided to create one ourselves. The Art of Manliness thus proudly presents the “35 Greatest Speeches in World History,” the finest library of speeches available on the web.

These speeches lifted hearts in dark times, gave hope in despair, refined the characters of men, inspired brave feats, gave courage to the weary, honored the dead, and changed the course of history. It is my desire that this library will become a lasting resource not only to those who wish to become great orators, but to all men who wisely seek out the great mentors of history as guides on the path to virtuous manhood.

I know that readers of blogs are often more likely to skim than to read in-depth. But I challenge you, gentlemen, to attempt a program of study in which you read the entirety of one of these great speeches each and every day. I found the process of compiling and reading these speeches to be enormously inspiring and edifying, and I feel confident that you will find them equally so.

How did we compile this list?

Great oratory has three components: style, substance, and impact.

Style: A great speech must be masterfully constructed. The best orators are masters of both the written and spoken word, and use words to create texts that are beautiful to both hear and read.

Substance: A speech may be flowery and charismatically presented, and yet lack any true substance at all. Great oratory must center on a worthy theme; it must appeal to and inspire the audience’s finest values and ideals.

Impact: Great oratory always seeks to persuade the audience of some fact or idea. The very best speeches change hearts and minds and seem as revelatory several decades or centuries removed as when they were first given.

And now for the speeches.

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Theodore Roosevelt, “Duties of American Citizenship”

January 26, 1883; Buffalo, New York

Given while serving as a New York assemblyman, TR’s address on the “Duties of American Citizenship” delved into both the theoretical reasons why every man should be involved in politics and the practical means of serving in that capacity. Roosevelt chided those who excused themselves from politics because they were too busy; it was every man’s duty to devote some time to maintaining good government.

Worthy Excerpt:

Of course, in one sense, the first essential for a man’s being a good citizen is his possession of the home virtues of which we think when we call a man by the emphatic adjective of manly. No man can be a good citizen who is not a good husband and a good father, who is not honest in his dealings with other men and women, faithful to his friends and fearless in the presence of his foes, who has not got a sound heart, a sound mind, and a sound body; exactly as no amount of attention to civil duties will save a nation if the domestic life is undermined, or there is lack of the rude military virtues which alone can assure a country’s position in the world. In a free republic the ideal citizen must be one willing and able to take arms for the defense of the flag, exactly as the ideal citizen must be the father of many healthy children. A race must be strong and vigorous; it must be a race of good fighters and good breeders, else its wisdom will come to naught and its virtue be ineffective; and no sweetness and delicacy, no love for and appreciation of beauty in art or literature, no capacity for building up material prosperity can possibly atone for the lack of the great virile virtues.

But this is aside from my subject, for what I wish to talk of is the attitude of the American citizen in civic life. It ought to be axiomatic in this country that every man must devote a reasonable share of his time to doing his duty in the Political life of the community. No man has a right to shirk his political duties under whatever plea of pleasure or business; and while such shirking may be pardoned in those of small cleans it is entirely unpardonable in those among whom it is most common–in the people whose circumstances give them freedom in the struggle for life. In so far as the community grows to think rightly, it will likewise grow to regard the young man of means who shirks his duty to the State in time of peace as being only one degree worse than the man who thus shirks it in time of war. A great many of our men in business, or of our young men who are bent on enjoying life (as they have a perfect right to do if only they do not sacrifice other things to enjoyment), rather plume themselves upon being good citizens if they even vote; yet voting is the very least of their duties, Nothing worth gaining is ever gained without effort. You can no more have freedom without striving and suffering for it than you can win success as a banker or a lawyer without labor and effort, without self-denial in youth and the display of a ready and alert intelligence in middle age. The people who say that they have not time to attend to politics are simply saying that they are unfit to live in a free community.

Read full text of speech here.

Winston Churchill, “We Shall Fight on the Beaches”

June 4, 1940; House of Commons, London

Winston Churchill, one of the greatest orators of the 20th century, was interestingly enough, like Demosthenes and other great orators before him, born with a speech impediment which he worked on until it no longer hindered him. One would never guess this from hearing Churchill’s strong and reassuring voice, a voice that would buoy up Britain during some of her darkest hours.

During the Battle of France, Allied Forces became cut off from troops south of the German penetration and perilously trapped at the Dunkirk bridgehead. On May 26, a wholesale evacuation of these troops, dubbed “Operation Dynamo,” began. The evacuation was an amazing effort-the RAF kept the Luftwaffe at bay while thousands of ships, from military destroyers to small fishing boats, were used to ferry 338,000 French and British troops to safety, far more than anyone had thought possible. On June 4, Churchill spoke before the House of Commons, giving a report which celebrated the “miraculous deliverance” at Dunkirk, while also seeking to temper a too rosy of view of what was on the whole a “colossal military disaster.”

Worthy Excerpt

I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our Island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone. At any rate, that is what we are going to try to do. That is the resolve of His Majesty’s Government-every man of them. That is the will of Parliament and the nation. The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength. Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

Read full text of speech here.

Lou Gehrig, “Farewell to Baseball Address”

July 4, 1939; Yankee Stadium

It seemed as if the luminous career of Lou Gehrig would go on forever. The Yankee’s first baseman and prodigious slugger was nicknamed the Iron Horse for his durability and commitment to the game. Sadly, his record for suiting up for 2,130 consecutive games came to an end when at age 36, Gehrig was stricken with the crippling disease that now bears his name. On July 4, 1939, the Yankees held a ceremony to honor their teammate and friend. They retired Gehrig’s number, spoke of his greatness, and presented him with various gifts, plaques, and trophies. When Gehrig finally addressed the crowd, he did not use the opportunity to wallow in pity. Instead, he spoke of the things he was grateful for and what a lucky guy he was.

The Speech

Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career to associate with them for even one day?

Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert – also the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow – to have spent the next nine years with that wonderful little fellow Miller Huggins – then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology – the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy!

Sure, I’m lucky. When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift, that’s something! When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies, that’s something.

When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles against her own daughter, that’s something. When you have a father and mother who work all their lives so that you can have an education and build your body, it’s a blessing! When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed, that’s the finest I know.

So I close in saying that I might have had a tough break – but I have an awful lot to live for!

Demosthenes, “The Third Philippic”

342 B.C.; Athens, Greece

Demosthenes, master statesman and orator, loved his city-state of Athens. He cherished its way of life and abundant freedoms. And he believed in standing strong against anyone who might attempt to infringe on these privileges. This passion, unfortunately, was seldom shared by his fellow Athenians. While Philip the II of Macedon made bolder and bolder incursions into the Greek peninsula, the Athenian people seemed stuck in an apathetic stupor. For years, Demosthenes employed his powerful oratorical skills in attempts to awaken his fellow citizens from sleep to the realization of the imminent danger Philip posed. When Philip advanced on Thrace, the Athenians called an assembly to debate whether or not to finally heed the great orator’s advice. Demosthenes was sick of his brethren taking liberty and the Athenian way of life for granted and he boldly called upon them to rise up and take action. After his rousing speech, the assembly all cried out, “To arms! To arms!”

Worthy Excerpt:

It is this fate, I solemnly assure you, that I dread for you, when the time comes that you make your reckoning, and realize that there is no longer anything that can be done. May you never find yourselves, men of Athens, in such a position! Yet in any case, it were better to die ten thousand deaths, than to do anything out of servility towards Philip [or to sacrifice any of those who speak for your good]. A noble recompense did the people in Oreus receive, for entrusting themselves to Philip’s friends, and thrusting Euphraeus aside! And a noble recompense the democracy of Eretria, for driving away your envoys, and surrendering to Cleitarchus! They are slaves, scourged and butchered! A noble clemency did he show to the Olynthians, who elected Lasthenes to command the cavalry, and banished Apollonides! It is folly, and it is cowardice, to cherish hopes like these, to give way to evil counsels, to refuse to do anything that you should do, to listen to the advocates of the enemy’s cause, and to fancy that you dwell in so great a city that, whatever happens, you will not suffer any harm.

Read full text of speech here.

Chief Joseph, “Surrender Speech”

October 5, 1877; Montana Territory

In 1877, the military announced that the Chief Joseph and his tribe of Nez Perce had to move onto a reservation in Idaho or face retribution. Desiring to avoid violence, Chief Joseph advocated peace and cooperation. But fellow tribesmen dissented and killed four white men. Knowing a swift backlash was coming, Joseph and his people began to make their way to Canada, hoping to find amnesty there. The tribe traveled 1700 miles, fighting the pursuing US army along the way. In dire conditions, and after a five day battle, Chief Joseph surrendered to General Nelson A. Miles on Oct. 5, 1877 in the Bear Paw Mountains of Montana Territory, a mere 40 miles from the Canadian border. The Chief knew he was the last of a dying breed, and the moment of surrender was heartbreaking.

The Speech

Tell General Howard I know his heart. What he told me before, I have it in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our Chiefs are killed; Looking Glass is dead, Ta Hool Hool Shute is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led on the young men is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets; the little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are – perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my Chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.

John F. Kennedy, “Inauguration Address”

January 20, 1961; Washington, D.C.

Young, handsome, with a glamorous family in tow, John F. Kennedy embodied the fresh optimism that had marked the post-war decade. On January 20, 1961, Kennedy took the oath of office as the 35th President of the United States. The youngest president in United States history, he was the first man born in the 20th century to hold that office. Listening to his inaugural address, the nation felt that a new era and a “new frontier” were being ushered in.

Worthy Excerpt:

Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?

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

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Read full text of speech here.

Listen to the speech.

Ronald Reagan, “Address to the Nation on the Challenger”

January 28, 1986; Washington, D.C.

On January 28, 1986, millions of Americans, many of them schoolchildren watching from their classroom desks, tuned in to see 7 Americans, including Christa McAuliffe, a 37 year old schoolteacher and the first ever “civilian astronaut,” lift off in the space shuttle Challenger. Just 73 seconds later, the shuttle was consumed in a fireball. All seven aboard perished. These were the first deaths of American astronauts while in flight, and the nation was shocked and heartbroken by the tragedy. Just a few hours after the disaster, President Ronald Reagan took to the radio and airwaves, honoring these “pioneers” and offering comfort and assurance to a rattled people.

Worthy Excerpt:

We’ve grown used to wonders in this century. It’s hard to dazzle us. But for 25 years the United States space program has been doing just that. We’ve grown used to the idea of space, and perhaps we forget that we’ve only just begun. We’re still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.

And I want to say something to the school children of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle’s takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It’s all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons. The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them……

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honoured us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.’

Read full text of speech here.

Listen to the speech.

“Speech of Alexander the Great”

326 B.C.; Hydaspes River, India

In 335 B.C., Alexander the Great began his campaign to recapture former Greek cities and to expand his empire. After ten years of undefeated battles, Alexander controlled an empire that included Greece, Egypt, and what had been the massive Persian Empire.

That wasn’t enough for Xander. He decided to continue his conquest into India. But after ten years of fighting and being away from home, his men lacked the will to take part in another battle, especially against an opponent like King Porus and his army. Alexander used the talent for oration he had developed while studying under Aristotle to infuse his men with the motivation they needed to continue on, to fight and to win.

Worthy Excerpt:

I could not have blamed you for being the first to lose heart if I, your commander, had not shared in your exhausting marches and your perilous campaigns; it would have been natural enough if you had done all the work merely for others to reap the reward. But it is not so. You and I, gentlemen, have shared the labour and shared the danger, and the rewards are for us all. The conquered territory belongs to you; from your ranks the governors of it are chosen; already the greater part of its treasure passes into your hands, and when all Asia is overrun, then indeed I will go further than the mere satisfaction of our ambitions: the utmost hopes of riches or power which each one of you cherishes will be far surpassed, and whoever wishes to return home will be allowed to go, either with me or without me. I will make those who stay the envy of those who return.

William Wilberforce, “Abolition Speech”

May 12, 1789; House of Commons, London

When William Wilberforce, a member of the British Parliament, converted to Christianity, he began to earnestly seek to reform the evils he found within himself and the world around him. One of the glaring moral issues of the day was slavery, and after reading up on the subject and meeting with anti-slavery activists, Wilberforce became convinced that God was calling him to be an abolitionist. Wilberforce decided to concentrate on ending the slave trade rather than slavery itself, reasoning that the abolition of one would logically lead to the demise of the other. On May 12, 1789, Wilberforce made his first speech on the abolition of the slave trade before the House of Commons. He passionately made his case for why the trade was reprehensible and needed to cease. Wilberforce introduced a bill to abolish the trade, but it failed, a result he would become quite familiar with in the ensuing years. Yet Wilberforce never gave up, reintroducing the bill year after year, and the Slave Trade Act was finally passed in 1807.

Worthy Excerpt:

When I consider the magnitude of the subject which I am to bring before the House-a subject, in which the interests, not of this country, nor of Europe alone, but of the whole world, and of posterity, are involved: and when I think, at the same time, on the weakness of the advocate who has undertaken this great cause-when these reflections press upon my mind, it is impossible for me not to feel both terrified and concerned at my own inadequacy to such a task. But when I reflect, however, on the encouragement which I have had, through the whole course of a long and laborious examination of this question, and how much candour I have experienced, and how conviction has increased within my own mind, in proportion as I have advanced in my labours;-when I reflect, especially, that however averse any gentleman may now be, yet we shall all be of one opinion in the end;-when I turn myself to these thoughts, I take courage-I determine to forget all my other fears, and I march forward with a firmer step in the full assurance that my cause will bear me out, and that I shall be able to justify upon the clearest principles, every resolution in my hand, the avowed end of which is, the total abolition of the slave trade.

Read full text of speech here.

Theodore Roosevelt, “The Man with the Muck-rake”

April 14, 1906; Washington, D.C.

Theodore Roosevelt was president during the Progressive Era, a time of great enthusiasm for reform in government, the economy, and society. TR himself held many progressive ideals, but he also called for moderation, not extremism. The “Man with a Muck-rake” in Pilgrim’s Progress never looked heavenward but instead constantly raked the filth at his feet. TR thus dubbed the journalists and activists of the day who were intent on exposing the corruption in society as “muckrakers.” He felt that they did a tremendous amount of good, but needed to mitigate their constant pessimism and alarmist tone. He worried that the sensationalism with which these exposes were often presented would make citizens overly cynical and too prone to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Worthy Excerpt:

To assail the great and admitted evils of our political and industrial life with such crude and sweeping generalizations as to include decent men in the general condemnation means the searing of the public conscience. There results a general attitude either of cynical belief in and indifference to public corruption or else of a distrustful inability to discriminate between the good and the bad. Either attitude is fraught with untold damage to the country as a whole. The fool who has not sense to discriminate between what is good and what is bad is well-nigh as dangerous as the man who does discriminate and yet chooses the bad. There is nothing more distressing to every good patriot, to every good American, than the hard, scoffing spirit which treats the allegation of dishonesty in a public man as a cause for laughter.

Such laughter is worse than the crackling of thorns under a pot, for it denotes not merely the vacant mind, but the heart in which high emotions have been choked before they could grow to fruition.

Read full text of speech here.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “First Inaugural Address”

March 4, 1933; Washington, D.C.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt handily beat incumbent Herbert Hoover in the 1932 presidential election. The country was deep into the Great Depression, and the public felt that Hoover did not fully sympathize with their plight and was not doing enough to alleviate it. No one was quite clear on what FDR’s plan was, but as in today’s election season, “change” was enough of an idea to power a campaign. In his First Inaugural Address, Roosevelt sought to buoy up the injured psyche of the American people and present his case for why he would need broad executive powers to tackle the Depression.

Worthy Excerpt:

I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our Nation impels. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself-nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.

Read the full text here.

Listen to the speech.

Charles de Gaulle, “The Appeal of 18 June”

June 18, 1940; London

In June of 1940, it was clear that France was losing their country to the German invasion. Refusing to sign an armistice, Prime Minister Paul Reynaud was forced to resign. He was succeeded by Marshal Philippe Petain who made clear his intention to seek an accommodation with Germany. Disgusted with this decision, General Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French Forces, escaped to England on June 15. De Gaulle asked for, and obtained permission from Winston Churchill to make a speech on BBC radio. De Gaulle exhorted the French to not give up hope and to continue the fight against the German occupation and the Vichy Regime.

Worthy Excerpt:

But has the last word been said? Must hope disappear? Is defeat final? No!

Believe me, I who am speaking to you with full knowledge of the facts, and who tell you that nothing is lost for France. The same means that overcame us can bring us victory one day. For France is not alone! She is not alone! She is not alone! She has a vast Empire behind her. She can align with the British Empire that holds the sea and continues the fight. She can, like England, use without limit the immense industry of the United States.

This war is not limited to the unfortunate territory of our country. This war is not over as a result of the Battle of France. This war is a worldwide war. All the mistakes, all the delays, all the suffering, do not alter the fact that there are, in the world, all the means necessary to crush our enemies one day. Vanquished today by mechanical force, in the future we will be able to overcome by a superior mechanical force. The fate of the world depends on it.

Read full text of speech here.

There are four pages to this post. Keep on going!

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{ 174 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dude in boise August 1, 2008 at 6:02 am

This is some fantastic content. I thank you for pulling this together as I plan to refer to this post frequently to seek inspiration and learn from these great speaches.

2 Nesagwa August 1, 2008 at 6:18 am

http://www.archive.org/details/presidential_recordings

You can find most of the more modern speeches here. There may even be readings of older speeches on there too.

3 Meiji_man August 1, 2008 at 8:02 am

WELL DONE

Hit everyone of my favorites and introduced me to a few new ones.

Now we need to Go to the Forums and start a “Best Fictional Speech Thread”

4 Hayden Tompkins August 1, 2008 at 8:08 am

I am surprised that you did not include Obama’s speech on race in America. I had actually given up on having a modern day speaker with the abilities as those who have come before. (Most people in your list, with the exception of Ronald Reagan, are almost 60 plus years ago.) Regardless of how one feels about Obama’s politics, I think that the race in America speech is both seminal and oratorically badass.

5 Kevin (ReturnToManliness) August 1, 2008 at 8:28 am

I agree with Hayden. The only counter is that it is too new. I hate that argument but some people will make it.

That speech was one for the ages and when looked at 10 years from now, we will remember it fondly…

6 Kate August 1, 2008 at 8:46 am

@Hayden-

I’m afraid I’ll have to make the argument that Kevin detests. You cannot truly measure the greatness of a speech until quite awhile after it is given in my opinion. This is true of all history. I teach US History and I end the class in the 1970′s as it takes several decades to really evaluate the significance of what happened previously. Will people be re-reading and re-listening to Obama’s speech 50 years from now? Will the speech have had any impact on race relations in this country? Only time will tell.

7 aashish August 1, 2008 at 9:12 am

Where are the speeches of Malcolm X? I believe his words are as motivating , maybe even more than, the speeches I see above.

8 Marshall August 1, 2008 at 9:28 am

The list is great, but more importantly for me, thank you for pointing me to the American Rhetoric site. That’s amazing. I never thought to look for a site like that, though I enjoy live oratory. The link was the best part of your post for me.

Marshall

9 Michael August 1, 2008 at 11:26 am

A great list indeed, but incomplete by one: General George S. Patton, Jr.

“I don’t want to get any messages saying, “I am holding my position.” We are not holding a god-damned thing. Let the Germans do that. We are advancing constantly and we are not interested in holding onto anything, except the enemy’s balls. We are going to twist his balls and kick the living shit out of him all of the time. Our basic plan of operation is to advance and to keep on advancing regardless of whether we have to go over, under, or through the enemy. We are going to go through him like crap through a goose; like shit through a tin horn!”

10 Ä°lkin Balkanay August 1, 2008 at 12:12 pm

This is very good collection of greatest speech in history but you are missing a very important leader, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

The Speech (Nutuk), which relates events in the Turkish War of Independence, the foundation of the Turkish Republic and the carrying out of revolutionary reforms, is a work that the founder of the Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal Atatürk himself wrote and left to history.

11 Meiji_man August 1, 2008 at 1:26 pm

Very Good Point Ä°lkin Balkanay !

12 Peter August 1, 2008 at 3:15 pm

A welcome addition to the resource list. American Rhetoric does a great job of compiling speeches, but a poor job of summarizing why it excels or even basic background of the speaker. Thank you for once again taking something one step further and breaking it down for general consumption!

13 Another dude in Boise August 1, 2008 at 7:43 pm

Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address:
“…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…”

His Gettysburg Address weren’t half bad, either.

Chief Seattle’s famous speech is probably a myth, but it’s one of the best, too.

And what about the speech President Bush gave on Sept. 11… No, I mean George H.W. Bush’s “Toward a New World Order” speech given on Sept. 11, 1990. The first use of the term “new world order”. One of the greatest? Naw, but it makes you wonder.

Oh, and I loved DeGaulle’s “vive la Quebec LIBRE” speech, the day before he was to address the Canada Parliment, when Canada was on the brink of civil war. He flew back to France without addressing Parliment. Leaving no doubt how he stood on the issue… hehe.

14 Marlon August 1, 2008 at 8:11 pm

This is a fantastic compilation. I plan on listening/reading all of these.

Great post,

Marlon

15 Joseph August 1, 2008 at 9:17 pm

Balkanay, you should be glad that almost one third of the speeches (if we include Chief Joseph as a non-American) are by foreigners. That’s really very good for a US website. Almost open-minded.

16 Father V. August 1, 2008 at 10:17 pm

One speech missing, in my humble opinion, is Theodore Roosevelt’s speech delivered at the Sorbonne in 1910.

“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat. “

17 Patryk August 1, 2008 at 10:45 pm

Great collection,

From my perspective I recommend Speach of Józef Beck, polish foreign affairs minister, during II World War.
There is, for me most inspirative passus.

Great job!

18 Rich August 1, 2008 at 10:53 pm

this is ibdeed an excellent collection of speeches. However, to call it the 35 greatest of all time, may be a bit ambitious and a considerably ethnocentric since it clearly has an anglo bias. i find insulting and difficult to believe that you could not include a speech given by a hipanic figure, etc. Spain and the Americas have a long tradition of great orators.

19 Brett August 1, 2008 at 11:07 pm

@Father V-

The title of the speech you reference by TR is “Citizenship in a Republic,” and we did indeed include it in the list. Check page 3.

@Rich-

If you believe a Hispanic speech is worthy of the greatest 35 orations of all time, please share some specific suggestions.

20 Lunar Farside August 2, 2008 at 12:38 am

i doubt that more than half of the greatest speeches in history were made by American presidents.

21 JonathanR. August 2, 2008 at 4:16 am

Great set of speeches, though I must concur with those who say that the title is a bit of an exaggeration. There is a certain bias…it’s not really anglo bias…more of an American / Whig tradition bias really, to account for the presence of Greek and Roman orators. As others have pointed out, there are no examples of Eastern speakers, save for (technically) Jesus Christ. There are no examples from medieval Christendom even, so its not even a Western bias.

Still, a great collection of speeches. I’d link to it if I had a website.

22 Sam Scott August 2, 2008 at 4:52 am

Lunar Farside is right. and many great speeches have been missed. For example Adolf Hitler is not on this list. He was one of the greatest speakers of the 20th century.

23 Solaiman August 2, 2008 at 5:49 am

Good article and interesting read but misleading title. The speeches are all western and mostly American speeches and I think that should be added to the title, 35 greatest speeches from the western world.

I know American’s don’t get out much, but there is a whole world out there, with thinkers and orators that will leave you mesmerised. And frankly not even acknowledging this point is arrogance in the extreme.

24 Brett McKay August 2, 2008 at 8:07 am

@Lunar and others-

I understand that the knee-jerk reaction to any list that includes many great white dead men is to cry Western civilization bias, but the fact is that oratory was an art developed and prized in well, the Western civilization. If you are right, Solaiman, that we are “extremely arrogant” in our choices, then I challenge you to make specific recommendations of great speeches that we omitted. Otherwise, making blanket statements of our bias rings rather hollow indeed.

@Sam-

If you read the criteria for truly great oratory as outlined in the introduction, you will see that Hitler does not fit the requirements. Oratory is defined as more than electrifying or well-crafted speech, it must also appeal to humanity’s greatest values and ideals. Here, Hitler, I think we will agree, falls far, far short.

25 Nicholas V. Findler August 2, 2008 at 8:57 am

I have enjoyed the citations. However, the criteria of evaluating the speeches are missing. If the speeches are listed without such, some people may wish to add to the speakers Hitler and Stalin, possibly Lenin. In fact, even Napoleon’s speeches, e.g. those given during the “100 days” after his return from the island of Elba, would belong there.

26 Brett August 2, 2008 at 9:04 am

@Nicholas-

The criteria are clearly posted in the intro under “How did we compile this list.”

27 Meiji_man August 2, 2008 at 9:04 am

@Brett-
I think you did a great job singling out the greatest Speeches available to you, I sure if you had been exposed to Speeches written in Polish by an obscure minister 70 some years ago you would have included it. I’m not going to damn you for expressing your opinion.

28 Brett August 2, 2008 at 9:12 am

Thanks for not damning me Meiji man. I think people have to realize that while their favorite speech from an obscure Polish minister may have been great, we had to pick the 35 greatest from the millions of speeches that have ever been given in world history. Lots of speeches are great, but are they top 35 great….that is the question….

29 Moses Adrien August 2, 2008 at 10:37 am

What about the great caribbean leaders like Marcus Garvey, Norman Manley or even Fidel Castro?
But Great mentions otherwise.

30 Rich August 2, 2008 at 2:48 pm

Again, I commend the effort, but fault the title. These are 35 nice sppeches, but it is just not possible to know whether they are the greatest of all time. Not only is the list not sufficiently representative of the majority of the worlds’ great civiizations, one person representing one single and unavoidably biased point of view point of view cannot possibly serve as an impartial judge. There is no point in even arguing the point, the title should be corrected to read, “My 35 Favorite Speeches”

31 JonathanR. August 3, 2008 at 4:07 am

“I understand that the knee-jerk reaction to any list that includes many great white dead men is to cry Western civilization bias, but the fact is that oratory was an art developed and prized in well, the Western civilization”

Even in admitting a certain fondness in the list for Western Civilization, a great chunk of speeches cherished by that civilization is missing. No mention of great medieval speakers like Pope Urban II or Bernard of Clairveaux, or Renaissance / Reformation speakers like Bartolome de las Casas (pair that guy with Wilberforce…), John Calvin, Robert Bellarmine and Ignatius of Loyola. Or, post-Enlightenment, Napoleon Bonaparte.

Even the body of work produced by the West seems difficult to compile into a list of 35. Those who bemoan the absence of work from the Eastern civilizations should probably compile their own lists…doing the West is tough enough.

32 Moshe August 3, 2008 at 5:47 am

One of the glaring moral issues of the day was slavery, and after reading up on the subject and meeting with anti-slavery activists, Wilberforce became convinced that God was calling him to be an abolitionist. Wilberforce decided to concentrate on ending the slave trade rather than slavery itself, reasoning that the abolition of one would logically lead to the demise of the other. On May 12, 1789, Wilberforce made his first speech on the abolition of the slave trade before the House of Commons. He passionately made his case for why the trade was reprehensible and needed to cease.

33 Solaiman August 3, 2008 at 9:17 am

@Brett McKay

#but the fact is that oratory was an art developed and prized in well, the Western civilization.#

You see, this is what i mean by arrogance?

34 Brett August 3, 2008 at 10:12 am

@Rich-I’ll make that title change when movie critics start writing lists called “My favorite movies of 2008,” instead of “the best movies of 2008,” and restaurant and travel guides start saying “my favorite restaurants in New York,” and “my favorite things to do in Spain.” I wonder if Time magazine will stop running their “Person of the Year” and change it to “Our Favorite Person of the Year,” After all how can a single editorial board make that call???

@Jonathan R.-I understand your point, but I would return to my point that 35 is a very select group. While Loyola and others made interesting speeches that might make the top 200, when push comes to shove, others speeches will beat them for the top.

@Solaiman- Sorry, nope, don’t see it. It is a historical fact that oratory developed and flourished in ancient Greece and Rome, was resurrected in Europe, and exported to America. Scholarship on the subject argues that true oratory really only flourishes under democratic regimes. If any arrogance is present it it is with arguing a case not based on scholarship but on some bit of wistful multiculturalism devoid of facts.

35 Razzbar August 3, 2008 at 11:42 am

I was about to give three aspects of a great speech, but at the last minute got a hunch to look at the criteria for this list. Mine are essentially the same: Delivery, Content and Consequence.

Hitler was all delivery. His content was a banal mix of whine, blame them, praise us. No need to comment on the consequences.

DeGaulle, was a master of plainspoken French. I’ve been told that if you want to learn French, listen to him. His regular speeches from England motivated the French people to continue resisting the German occupiers, with considerable effect.

I’d be very interested in knowing about Mustafa Kemal, Attaturk as a speaker. As a visionary and national savior, he’s among the most important leaders of the 20th century. Consider that Attaturk came along when Turkey was in the exact same circumstance as Germany at the end of WWI. While Germany was taken to the cleaners with reparations, setting the stage for Hitler’s rise to power, Attaturk apparently kept the allies from raping Turkey’s economy, and with radical vision, brought the country from an Ottoman country ruled by corrupt clerics and sultans, into the modern western sphere.

And finally, I’m amazed that nobody has mentioned Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. In terms of delivery, content and consequence, King delivered many noteable speeches, with that one simply being the best known.

What a great topic! I’ve always loved the disappearing art of oration.

One final speech: Four years ago, one afternoon, I turned on the radio to the local NPR station which was giving live coverage of the Democratic national convention. A speech was in progress, and I became more and more impressed with what was being said, by this speaker who was delivering a positive, conciliatory message. When the speech was over, it was the first time I heard the name “Barak Obama”. Words have power.

36 Aaron August 3, 2008 at 5:18 pm

Another notable mention: Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty of Give Me Death” speech.

37 Aaron August 3, 2008 at 5:19 pm

Another notable mention: Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech.

38 Moon August 3, 2008 at 6:29 pm

Oh, come on – THREE speeches by Reagan and FOUR by Teddy Roosevelt??

In all the speeches of all time, THREE by Reagan? Sheesh.

I’m not even religious, but I would think that Jesus would get one. Maybe Mohammed made a great speech? I mean millions of people treat these 2 guys as good, and we have records of their speeches. They must have done SOMETHING right.

39 Brett August 3, 2008 at 6:34 pm

@Aaron-You’ll find Henry’s speech on page 3.

@Moon-Jesus is on page 3 as well. Please read more carefully before being so critical.

40 Shehan J August 3, 2008 at 6:49 pm

Couple things– great speeches, some I’ve heard some I have not. If I can recommend one to the list and then make a correction to the author.

I’ll start with the correction. Teddy Roosevelt was the youngest American president. So the statement that JFK was “The youngest president in United States history,” is false. He was the youngest elected president.

As per my suggestion– I’d like to recommend Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s speech, “The Cross and the Double Cross”, it can be found here:

http://www.catholicmil.org/html/fultonsheen.php?id=648

41 Ihsan Piracha August 3, 2008 at 8:25 pm

Your heading “The 35 Greatest Speeches in History” is not quite correct, it should be “The 30 Greatest Speeches in US History.” This way the few odd men like Winston Churchill, Alexander the Great, Charles de Gaulle, Demosthenes and William Wilberforce can be left out of it.

Having scanned views of some others, I have seen that this observation has been made by many others too. Someone has even suggested a very apt title “My 35 Favorite Speeches.”

Your claim to base the selection on style, substance, and impact is indeed correct but surely not well represented in your selection from the entire world’s history.

42 Brett August 3, 2008 at 8:31 pm

@Ihsan-

If you did indeed read the comments, than you already know my response. If you feel there are speeches that should have been included but have not been, then please make some suggestions. Otherwise, your comment carries no weight with me.

43 puneet August 4, 2008 at 5:34 am

U should add Jawahar lal Nehru’s ‘tryst with destiny’.Mahatama Gandhi gathered hundred and thousands to listen to what he had to say.He had the power to shake d entire colonial government with what he had to say. Dont they teach world history in your schools or is it just american history ?

44 michelle August 4, 2008 at 2:22 pm

Two observations re the Sermon on the Mount:

Proof of the actual existence of Jesus is lacking; the earliest books of the NT were written more than a hundred years after his “death”.

The concept of “an eye for an eye” as bloody retribution/revenge has been mis-interpreted for hundreds of years. It’s truer meaning comes closer to “let the punishment ft the crime”. Jewish law before that allowed disproportionate sentences, as to this day, many Islamist laws do; (cutting off the hand for minor theft, etc). A google search of the phrase will yield much corroboration.

45 Citizen Politician August 4, 2008 at 6:14 pm
46 L. Carlson August 4, 2008 at 7:12 pm

This isn’t a PhD defense, it is a list on a blog. Relax, his site = his top 35.

Thanks for putting it together. Well written and I appreciate the excerpting of the speeches.

47 JonathanR. August 5, 2008 at 6:24 am

‘Proof of the actual existence of Jesus is lacking; the earliest books of the NT were written more than a hundred years after his “deathâ€?.’

Not quite right. There have been several historical proofs of Jesus’ existence, including evidence from non-Christian sources like Josephus. And, the earliest gospels were written within 30 years of His death, by apostles or people close to them. (Mark and Matthew come to mind.)

On another note…

Its kinda shameful that I only remember this just because the great man just died, but this list missed out on Solzhenitsyn. Both his Templeton Address and his Harvard Address are up there with any US President’s speech any day.

“More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.

Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.

What is more, the events of the Russian Revolution can only be understood now, at the end of the century, against the background of what has since occurred in the rest of the world. What emerges here is a process of universal significance. And if I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entire twentieth century, here too, I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithy than to repeat once again: Men have forgotten God.”

- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Templeton Prize acceptance address, 1983

48 Jay Pyatt August 5, 2008 at 6:43 am

I know that it is a fictional speech, but Henry the Fifth’s St. Crispen’s Day Speech written by Shakespeare is one of my favorites. I would include Patton’s speech, although there are several problems with the vernacular that he uses.

49 NickP August 5, 2008 at 9:04 am

Good list, probably is a bit centered in us Americans but that same bias would be present in any country. Hard to avoid so no one should complain too much about it.

Jonathan R. whether or not Jesus actually existed is open for debate. There are a few references to a person named Jesus outside of the Bible but that is a far cry from proving the Jesus of the Bible actually existed.

That speech by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn isn’t all that convincing. Using their three variables; I cannot comment on delivery since I did not see it but content and consequence I can. As for content all he does is blame the lack of faith for the decline of the USSR. That is simply a grossly wrong statement. There were a ton of things wrong with Communist Russia but lack of god is not one of them. Consequences…well I don’t think there were any. As you said yourself you only remembered it because he died.

50 Rangervic August 5, 2008 at 2:49 pm

Oh it is tough to whittle down the greats to a small number! I do think that there is a little overkill on Teddy R. and Ronald Regan. And three other worthwhile contenders deserve to be mentioned. I guess that should be two orators and three speaches.

First the no contest greatest oration ever –by the Boy orator of the Platte,–the great William Jennings Bryan, the Cross of Gold speech. Which rings even more true now in the era of neocons than it did in the era of robber barons.
Second the two Memorial day speeches of Oliver Wendell Holmes. Really moving memorials to those who gave their lives by a man who saw the horrors of combat on a scale that God willing American soldiers will never have to experience again.

Also thanks for your blog it is a breath of fresh air in a stifiling atmosphere of “modern” political correctness. Keep up the good work .

Long live the Menassaince!

51 Viet Doan August 5, 2008 at 4:14 pm

A good read.
Most are American, but US was the most influential nation of last century so I think that’s justified.

52 Mr. Sweet August 6, 2008 at 10:46 am

@Brett

Kudos. A very ambitious and worthy undertaking this is. I will indeed be working my way through these speeches as the days pass.

53 kaisersoze August 9, 2008 at 11:41 pm

In reading the above arguments and cacophony of “offended” dissension, my meager two-cents worth is that when someone runs a website, it’s their prerogative to voice their opinion. I disagree with several entries (It’s often a Teddy Roosevelt love fest here) but I feel that the ART of one’s Manliness is to gather the comments and not post angry retorts but concise examples as rebuttal. So that we can all look, as I have, at the suggestions and learn from each of us. I don’t mind clever arguments, but the whole “my orator is better than your orator” should be left to the debate club geeks. This forum should reinforce manliness/gentlemanliness and have proper point/counterpoint.
Missing in my opinion: Jesus/Confucius (same thing), MLK, Henry V, maybe Knute Rockne.

54 Brett August 10, 2008 at 7:06 am

@Kaiseroze-

I appreciate your comments. As you said, what is lacking in many of the angry comments above are concrete examples of what we missed. I don’t mind dissension, but it needs to be backed up.

And I appreciate your suggestions, but please note that Jesus and MLK can both be found on page 3.

55 kaisersoze August 10, 2008 at 6:57 pm

BTW,
@ those who ridicule American education:
Correct me if I’m wrong but, when it comes to our “government” education, don’t be surprised when all of us miss out on something that wasn’t in the “curriculum”. Government Education is opportunistic in relation to it’s cause. That goes for Social Europeans as well. Granted, our system isn’t spectacular, but overall this country allows us to find answers and confront the incorrect ones freely and openly, maybe a little more than others. Don’t knock it too much.

56 Rich August 12, 2008 at 4:37 am

Sure, you put the list together, so you can call it anything you want. As long as you and I and the rest of the readers know the truth. While it is a nice littlle exercise to collect these speeches, it is frankly naive to give them the title of the greatest ever. You must have known that when you put the list together ad if you did not, I would then question your credentials and knowledge on the topic.

57 Brian Doherty August 14, 2008 at 6:35 am

Correction:

Kennedy’s speech exhorting America to go to the moon was not delivered in Washington, D.C. It was delivered in Rice Stadium at Rice University, Houston, TX. You can clearly see this behind Kennedy in the picture.

58 Vreemdst August 15, 2008 at 2:08 am

That list is pure and brilliant.

Martin Luther King Jr and Winston Churchill I’ve always known, but these others are good to add.
Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is ironic, I think, in that it really is more remembered than the battle…

59 miragana September 2, 2008 at 8:44 pm

Good day!
It is very informative and has a very good quality in it.
I like it…

http://www.Squidoo.com/MPI
mliragana.blogspot.com

Thank you very much for your time.

60 abdullah September 4, 2008 at 10:29 am

http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/fundamentals/prophet/lastsermon.html

Delivered in the year 632 CE.

“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over a white – except by piety and good action.”

61 Joe Ardent September 12, 2008 at 12:49 pm

One speech that I’m surprised is not here is David Lange’s speech as the Prime Minister of New Zealand, announcing that New Zealand was breaking a long-standing defense treaty with the United States over the issue of nuclear weapons. Entitled, “Nuclear Weapons are Morally Indefensible”, he laid out the arguments of the title, and why therefore New Zealand must no longer be party to their relationship with the US and other powers. Here’s a powerful excerpt:

“The great strength of the West, in fact, lies not in the force of arms – although some would seek under the cover of a benign democracy to argue that it is in fact the force of arms – but it lies in its free and democratic systems of government.

That is why, in spite of all the difficulties and disagreements which we have amongst friends and allies, I am not disheartened. I came to Great Britain by way of the United States, where I put my case to the American people through the news media without any kind of hindrance from the United States Administration.

Members of Her Majesty’s Government have made it plain to me that they do not hold with the views I am committed to. I in fact have heard those before. The other night I heard them from Washington. They were compelling. They were a restatement of the United Kingdom position, and they were said with such candour and frankness that they seemed to persist even after the volume had been turned off. They were done with a strength and a purpose and a vigour.

I want to say that notwithstanding that difference, I have felt welcome here. I have been freely able to express my views. I can say freely whatever I please. Just as any member of Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom would be welcome in New Zealand to expound any line of argument in any forum she cared to use. That is the true strength of the West.

And that is a strength which is threatened, not defended, by nuclear weapons. The appalling character of those weapons has robbed us of our right to determine our destiny and subordinates our humanity to their manic logic. They have subordinated reason to irrationality and placed our very will to live in hostage. Rejecting the logic of nuclear weapons does not mean surrendering to evil; evil must still be guarded against. Rejecting nuclear weapons is to assert what is human over the evil nature of the weapon; it is to restore to humanity the power of the decision; it is to allow a moral force to reign supreme. It stops the macho lurch into mutual madness.

And for me, the position of my country is a genuine long-term affirmation of this proposition: that nuclear weapons are morally indefensible. And I support that proposition.”

Here’s a transcript, a recording, and some contextualizing notes:
http://www.publicaddress.net/default,1578.sm#post

62 Smiler September 12, 2008 at 1:59 pm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Collins_(British_Army_officer)#Speech_excerpt

Speech given by Colonel Tim Collins of the First Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment, on the eve of battle before they entered Kuwait in March 2003.
If it interests any one, check out his book Rules of Engagament, Life in Conflict.

63 Steve Anthony September 15, 2008 at 12:06 pm

Fantastic list, and while some were unknown to me, given the bona fides, I can’t argue with the selections.

As you’ve pointed out, simply arguing that the list is biased is intellectually lazy. If you think other orations are worthy, list them (as some have).

I’d have to include Patton’s speech. Also, I don’t put nearly as much stock in speeches which were written by others and merely delivered by the speaker. While I’m a Reagan supporter, I’d have to put him largely in that category. Speakers such as Churchill and Roosevelt penned their own words.

64 michael cabigas September 18, 2008 at 11:13 pm

oration;science clubbing optimized;igniting and innovating

65 Kevin October 3, 2008 at 9:05 am

What? No Lincoln? The second inaugural address was amazing..

66 Dave October 11, 2008 at 8:12 pm

What? Hitler isn’t on here? I mean he was an awful man and all, but some of his speeches should at least be considered.

67 Dave October 30, 2008 at 8:53 pm

Mostly English speakers, and no African Americans–Where’s MLK, Malcom X, Obama…?

68 Paul November 7, 2008 at 10:10 am

Please add Barack Obama’s victory speech and MLK’s “I Have A Dream”. Come on, if you’re going to list speeches, you should definitely have “I Have A Dream”

69 Nanlee November 23, 2008 at 9:03 am

aaron you point is good
Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty of Give Me Death” speech. This is one of the greatest speeches the world can boost of.

70 Julian December 6, 2008 at 4:02 pm

Personally, I thought it was a fantastic list. Of course there are speeches missing that maybe are obscure to English speakers or lost to time. However, this is a very good list. I wish people would actually look at all of them before they said certain ones were missing. As much as I love my favorite two presidents, a little too heavy on TR and the Gipper.

71 king December 25, 2008 at 11:16 am

the selection is good.but without the LAST SERMON SPEECH OF PROPHET MUHAMMAD the list is indeed incomplete

72 Yarl January 20, 2009 at 10:03 pm

Frankly this list is very amerocentric. Feels like half the speeches on the list are American presidential speeches. And what is up with including Jesus? You can’t seriously consider the bible to have a correct transcript of a speech held 2000 years ago. Even if you are Christian you should still know the bible is written poetically, right?

73 Rich Pletcher January 23, 2009 at 12:57 pm

I’m surprised that only two people made mention of the most beautiful speech ever made, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

74 Conrad January 24, 2009 at 10:52 am

Wait which one is America? Is that the loud one? Or the one with a chip on its shoulder?

75 jimmy February 6, 2009 at 3:14 am

Great compilation! Obama’s 2004 speech, I thought, had a chance. But keep up the job man!

76 Georgia March 10, 2009 at 3:09 am

Very intresting collection,
but allow me to add one more.
The speech of the Greek Prime Minister, Xenophon Zolotas , 2nd October 1959
in Washington .
It has remain in history as a proof of the uniqueness of the Greek Language.

Kyrie,

It is Zeus’ anathema on our epoch and the heresy of our economic method and policies that we should agonize the Skylla of nomismatic plethora and the Charybdis of economic anaemia.

It is not my idiosyncracy to be ironic or sarcastic but my diagnosis would be that politicians are rather cryptoplethorists. Although they emphatically stigmatize nomismatic plethora, they energize it through their tactics and practices. Our policies should be based more on economic and less on political criteria. Our gnomon has to be a metron between economic strategic and philanthropic scopes.

In an epoch characterized by monopolies, oligopolies, monopolistic antagonism and polymorphous inelasticities, our policies have to be more orthological, but this should not be metamorphosed into plethorophobia, which is endemic among academic economists.

Nomismatic symmetry should not antagonize economic acme. A greater harmonization between the practices of the economic and nomismatic archons is basic.

Parallel to this we have to synchronize and harmonize more and more our economic and nomismatic policies panethnically. These scopes are more practicable now, when the prognostics of the political end economic barometer are halcyonic.

The history of our didimus organization on this sphere has been didactic and their gnostic practices will always be a tonic to the polyonymous and idiomorphous ethnical economies. The genesis of the programmed organization will dynamize these policies.

Therefore, I sympathize, although not without criticism one or two themes with the apostles and the hierarchy of our organs in their zeal to program orthodox economic and nomismatic policies.

I apologize for having tyranized you with my Hellenic phraseology. In my epilogue I emphasize my eulogy to the philoxenous aytochtons of this cosmopolitan metropolis and my encomium to you Kyrie, the stenographers.

77 Louie March 25, 2009 at 5:28 am

I have always wanted something like this, it is true there isn’t anything worthy on the internet on history’s great orators and speeches. I will definetely continue to read this, I can only ask to expand it and add more memorable speeches. I know people have argued that Obama as a great orator is to early to say, but it is undeniable that the man has it, his 2004 speech truly makes you appreciate the art of oration.

78 A. March 27, 2009 at 2:40 pm

Greatest speeches? More like Greatest pseudo-patriotic demagoguery, amirite?

79 Jessie July 2, 2009 at 4:41 pm

I can’t believe so many people are so blind to Christianity . A brilliant speech is suppose to speak to you in ways others speeches can’t. They are suppose to compell

80 jan July 2, 2009 at 4:50 pm

I can’t believe so many people are so blind to Christianity . A brilliant speech is suppose to speak to you in ways others speeches can’t. They are suppose to compel a person to take stand, to really give them a reason to do better or listen. If you have read the word of the bible you would understand the feeling Jesus and is words bring upon you. And for your critique of proof the words in the bible not by Jesus were spoken through those people by Jesus and from primary account. Once you have experienced the savior you will understand. By the way i believe your list is very informative and has incredible quality.

81 EgomeFass August 27, 2009 at 12:27 pm

What about the greatest acceptance speech ever, given by Joe Pesci after winning Best Supporting Oscar for “Goodfellas”? I’ll include the entire text here:

“Thanks!”

:-)

82 benetton September 24, 2009 at 3:18 pm

the most intrestin speeches in lates histry are from hugos chaves in 2006 in UNand barak obama

83 Martin November 4, 2009 at 11:15 am

If you’re including the Sermon on the Mount, I think you have to include the St. Crispin’s Day speech.

84 Andy November 11, 2009 at 8:40 pm

I’m glad to see that Theodore Roosevelt, who I have long considered to be one of the best (and certainly most manly) presidents, has made the cut more than once on this list.

As far as presidential speeches go, however, I don’t think anything can top the way that Lincoln’s Second Inaugural address just flows like a river. It’s a beautiful piece of oratory history.

85 kurt hunt November 13, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Wow! I was beginning to wonder when I’d see Honest Abe. I hope these are in ascending order.

I’m not joking when I say that this list needs to be updated to include Stephen Colbert’s keynote address at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner.

He may be a comedian, but that speech was pivotal, and righteous.

86 kurt hunt November 13, 2009 at 10:22 pm

I’ve read all the comments here, and it’s obvious that many of you did not flip to pages 2, 3, and 4 (I nearly made the same mistake). The Gettysburgh Address is on there people!! It’s a good list, and a great idea, but the webpage layout is not the greatest.

ALSO, I think the list is a bit American-centric. And a bit victor-centric (with the exception of Chief Joseph, which was a brilliant selection). Surely there must have been some great speeches by Chinese and Muslim leaders. One poster mentioned Hitler – sure he was a real jerk, but wasn’t he supposedly a great orator? What about the Ayatolla Khomeni? Was he a good speaker? I don’t know.

Brett & Kate, I challenge you both to dig a little deeper. This is a great endeavor, and I thank you. But I think it can be better. I’d like to learn some new stuff rather than have my opinions reaffirmed.

87 Brett McKay November 13, 2009 at 10:43 pm

@Kurt

Thanks for the comment. Please allow me to respond to it.

I encourage you to dig a little deeper into the introduction to the post and the history of oratory in general. Under “How did we compile this list?” we listed 3 criteria for a speech’s inclusion. One of which was:

“Substance: A speech may be flowery and charismatically presented, and yet lack any true substance at all. Great oratory must center on a worthy theme; it must appeal to and inspire the audience’s finest values and ideals.”

This is the definition of oratory as the ancient Greeks defined it. I don’t believe that Hitler or the Ayatolla Khomeni meet this criteria. Do you?

The list is also victor-centric because of the above criteria and because the right side often came out on top. This is also why many entries in the list probably confirmed your already existing opinions. I don’t believe in adding diversity simply because going outside the box makes the list seem smarter and edgier. Sometimes the best stuff did come from America, and it’s okay to admit this. This is especially true as it concerns oratory because the tradition of oratory is largely a Western tradition-great speeches come out of democracies because of the right to free speech and the fact that citizens and politicians can use the form to persuade others to their point of view. For more information on oratory check out this post:

http://artofmanliness.com/2008/07/17/resurrecting-the-lost-art-of-oratory/

88 lilian December 16, 2009 at 6:50 am

Thanks alot .Please keep updating your list.So much research must have been done. I like to read speeches so much and keep on.
Lilian

89 markicon December 18, 2009 at 9:16 pm
90 Richard Shelmerdine December 22, 2009 at 5:16 am

one of the best posts on here in my opinion. The Roosevelt one is just brilliant.

91 Shawn January 5, 2010 at 3:50 am

Are you sure you didn’t mean Washington’s Farewell Address to Congress (1796)??? Hard to imagine this didn’t make it on the list.

92 Ross January 11, 2010 at 12:10 am

Loved the list!! – It’s missing the “I Have a Dream” speech but other than that – Great work..

93 edellorraine January 27, 2010 at 6:10 am

i like all the speeches!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

94 David January 31, 2010 at 12:30 am

First, @ Michelle: Actually, the evidence FOR the existence of Jesus (regardless of what you may personally believe as to his divinity) is overwhelming. Jewish religious leaders, his most ardent opposers, never questioned his existence in the early centuries, only his origin. Josephus, the famous historian of the time, spoke of him as a real and noteworthy man. Also, the very last book of the NT, the Epistle of John (yes, I know, Revelation is the last book sequentially, but not chronologically; Revelation was written by John while he was imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos, his Letters and Epistle after his release) was written in the year 98 CE/AD, some 65 years (approximately, I can’t remember the exact length of time at the moment) after Christ’s death. He was one of the thousands of eyewitnesses to Jesus’ authenticity as a real historical figure.

Second @ Brett: Awesome list man! I loved it. And I know AoM is catching a lot of flak here for including fo many Westerners and Americans, but, let’s face it, only in relatively modern times have so many speeches been able to directly reach so many people, thanks to modern communication technology. Sure, there may be a slight bias, but that would be true of any author, depending on his personal location and preferences.

95 O.B. February 24, 2010 at 10:26 am

I think 2 more speeches are necessary:

1. Mercy for Leopold and Loeb – made by Clarence Darrow- One of the greatest legal speeches of all times.
2. Another legal speech – the opening statement made by the prosecutor in the Adolph Eichmann Case in Israel (some state that it was written by the man who was then prime minister in Israel). Since most are not familiar with it – Here is the opening paragraph:

“Here, where I stand before you honorable judges of Israel, to prosecute Adolph Eichmann, I do not stand alone; with me stand here, at this hour, six million prosecutors. Yet they could not rise to their feet, point an accusing figure towards the glass chamber and shout at the man sitting there “I accuse him!”, because thier ashes are piling between the hills of Auschwitz and the fields of Treblinka, is washed away in the rivers of Poland and their tombs litter the length and width of Europe. Their blood cries out, but their voices can not be heard. Therefore, I shall be their mouth, and word their terrible accusations”

96 W. Strong March 6, 2010 at 1:41 pm

I have had the pleasure of teaching college courses in American Oratory for three decades. The subject is so huge, even restricted to American history, that I have had to divide it into four genres: political, religious, legal, and humorous (comedic) oratory. And these genres are covered in two courses.

To discuss any art form in terms of the greatest of all time is fraught with subjectivity and ethnocentrism. A list created by genre, divided by nationality or culture, is far more defensible. So to list Lincoln as the United States’ greatest political orator of the 19th century, might still leave room for debate, but it shortens the list considerably.

Still, it is always a seductive challenge to try to determine the best of all time, whether talking oratory, golf, or beer. So If I had to choose the best orator of all time in terms of lasting impact, I would have to say Jesus. I am agnostic and still come to this conclusion for the reason that he held no office, wrote no books, conquered no countries, and headed no armies. All he did was deliver sermons. His total words spoken amount to a mere two hours of talking. Yet those two hours have created a spiritual (and physical) empire that has a presence in every country in the world.

By the same criteria I would have to judge Mohammed a similar success. His powerful reach across time and territory is undeniable.

As others have pointed out, as lists go, I think the 35 presented here is quite good as a list serving the Western perspective and manliness. It, at a minimum, exposes many to speeches they had never heard of before and therefore serves as a great little education in this niche of liberal arts.

Now, I agree with those who want to take on great speeches in film to create a similar list. I begin with three: THE COLLEGE OF CORPORATIONS speech in NETWORK,
GREED by Gordon Gekko in WALL STREET, and YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH by Jack Nicholson in (can’t remember the name of the film).

97 Mark (MdBostnmt) March 11, 2010 at 11:41 am

I loved perusing this list. As much as I love President T. R. Roosevelt, I would have pulled one of his speeches to make room for Elie Weisel’s “The Perils of Indifference”

98 Dan March 14, 2010 at 4:05 pm

I think Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?” should be in there as well. That was a short but wonderful speech.

99 Austin Jones March 15, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Great list overall. I was glad to see someone like Lou Gehrig on the list, and not just politicians.

If I may suggest a handful of others, the Irish rebels of 1916 gave some great speeches, whether they be the elevated language of P. H. Pearse, or the working man’s rough wisdom of James Connolly.

On a less serious note, Al Pacino’s speech in Any Given Sunday is masterful, fiction or not.

100 Sonam March 17, 2010 at 1:30 am

Great!!

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