Jawaharlal Nehru’s Tryst With Destiny
Delivered Aug. 1415, 1947, in New Delhi, India
The struggle against the British Empire on the Indian subcontinent finally came to a triumphant finish with Jawaharlal Nehru’s “Tryst with Destiny” speech just before midnight on the eve of India’s independence. He honors Gandhi as the leader of the movement, as well as the victory they achieved. He also alludes to the Partition that split India and Pakistan into two countries, as well as the sectarian divides between Hindus and Muslimsproblems that still plague the country today.
Rachel Carson’s A New Chapter In Silent Spring
Delivered Jan. 8, 1963, in New York City, N.Y.
In the ’60s and ’70s, environmentalism sprang up as a social justice organization inspired by the civil rights movement. A seminal text was Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” which detailed the effects of the harmful pesticide DDT. In a speech to the Garden Club of America after her book’s publication, Carson discusses the importance of raising public awareness of environmental issues, the next steps for those against pesticides, and new environmental dangers emerging on the horizon.
Black Power Address At Uc Berkeley By Stokely Carmichael
Now we are now engaged in a psychological struggle in this country, and that is whether or not black people will have the right to use the words they want to use without white people giving their sanction to it and that we maintain, whether they like it or not, we gonna use the word Black Power and let them address themselves to that but that we are not going to wait for white people to sanction Black Power. Were tired waiting every time black people move in this country, theyre forced to defend their position before they move. Its time that the people who are supposed to be defending their position do that. Thats white people. They ought to start defending themselves as to why they have oppressed and exploited us.
A forceful and impressive orator, Stokely Carmichael was among those at the forefront of the civil rights movement, who was a vigorous socialist organizer as well. He led the Black Power movement wherein he gave this urgent, influential speech that propelled Black Americans forward in their fight for constitutional rights in the 1960s.
John L Lewis Labor And The Nation
Delivered Sept. 2, 1937, in Washington D.C.
Powerful unions like the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizationswhose founding president was John L. Lewisemerged in the 1920s and ’30s. Lewis’ speech lays out the long, occasionally bloody history of unions that brought them to this point and argues that the labor movement’s fight for “peace with justice” shouldn’t be seen as communist and should be supported by the people. It seems his speech fell on deaf ears, as unions were significantly weakened in the 1970s and have been on the decline since.
Margaret Sanger’s The Morality Of Birth Control
Delivered Nov. 18, 1921, at Park Theatre, New York
Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was one of the most outspoken advocates for every man and woman’s right to access birth control and take control of their own family planning. In this speech, she argues that it is not immoral, as some claim, but rather that it’s moral for children to be desired and that motherhood should “be the function of dignity and choice.” Open access to birth control for married and unmarried couples wouldn’t be realized until the 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut Supreme Court decision established a constitutional right to privacy over reproductive choices.
Nelson Mandela’s Free At Last
Delivered May 2, 1994, in Pretoria, South Africa
Decades earlier, Nelson Mandela made a name for himself for his anti-apartheid speech while on trial in Pretoria now, after 27 years in prison, apartheid had officially ended and Mandela had become South Africa’s first democratically elected president. “Free at last” is a reference to a Dr. Martin Luther King speech, showing how closely connected the anti-apartheid and civil rights movement were, though the two leaders never met. The speech emphasizes both the joy of the moment and continued work needed to build “a better life for all South Africans.”
Democratic National Convention Speech By Michelle Obama
Ever the favourite modern First Lady of America, Michelle Obama has delivered an abundance of iconic speeches in her political capacity, never forgetting to foreground the indomitable human spirit embodied in American citizens everyday lives and efforts towards a better world. The Obamas might just have been the most articulate couple of rhetoricians of their time, making waves as the first African American president and First Lady while introducing important policies in their period of governance.
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Richard Nixon’s Resignation Address To The Nation
Delivered: Aug. 8, 1974, from Washington D.C.
The case against President Richard Nixon had been growing for years as more details about the Watergate scandal emerged. By August 1974, The Supreme Court ordered the release of tapes he made in the Oval Office, articles of impeachment were being drawn up, and Nixon had lost the support of members of his own party. Rather than suffer the shame of being the first president to be removed from office, Nixon opted to be the first president to resign in a speech highlighting his successes and the work that would need to be continued by his successor.
Charles De Gaulle The Appeal Of 18 June
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.
Read full text of speech here.
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Greatest Speeches Of The 20th Century
The 20th century was one of the most varied, hopeful, and tumultuous in world history. From the Gilded Age to the beginning of the Internet Agewith plenty of stops along the wayit was a century punctuated by conflicts including two World Wars, the Cold War, the War in Vietnam, and the development of nuclear warfare. At the same time, the 20th century was characterized by a push for equality: Women in the United States received the right to vote after decades of activism, while the civil rights movement here ended the era of Jim Crow, inspired marginalized groups to take action, and introduced this country to great leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
Hundreds of people have used their voices along the way to heal, inspire, and enact change with speeches that helped to define these poignant moments in world history. Stacker has curated a list of 100 of the greatest speeches from the 20th century, drawing from research into great American speeches as determined by 137 scholars of American public address, as well as other historical sources. What follows is a gallery of speeches from around the U.S. and the world dealing with the most pressing issues of the day. Not all images show the speech event itself, but do feature the people who gave them.
Read on to discover which American author accepted his Nobel prize under protest and whether an American president accidentally called himself a jelly donut in German.
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!”
Read full text of speech here.
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Speech To 20th Congress Of The Cpsu By Nikita Khruschev
Considering the question of the cult of an individual, we must first of all show everyone what harm this caused to the interests of our Party.
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin had always stressed the Partys role and significance in the direction of the socialist government of workers and peasants he saw in this the chief precondition for a successful building of socialism in our country. Pointing to the great responsibility of the Bolshevik Party, as ruling Party of the Soviet state, Lenin called for the most meticulous observance of all norms of Party life he called for the realization of the principles of collegiality in the direction of the Party and the state.Collegiality of leadership flows from the very nature of our Party, a Party built on the principles of democratic centralism. This means, said Lenin, that all Party matters are accomplished by all Party members directly or through representatives who, without any exceptions, are subject to the same rules in addition, all administrative members, all directing collegia, all holders of Party positions are elective, they must account for their activities and are recallable.
Audre Lorde’s Uses Of Anger Keynote Address
Delivered June 1981, in Storrs, Conn.
Well-known as a poet, writer, feminist, and civil rights activist, Audre Lorde wasn’t afraid to critique the second-wave feminism movement for its disregard for the different ways women of color, particularly black women, suffered under the patriarchy. “Uses of Anger” was her keynote speech at the National Women’s Studies Association Conference, but in it, Lorde doesn’t only express rage at men and the white feminists who silence those marginalized voices. She also declares, “And I am not free as long as one person of color remains chained. Nor is anyone of you.” Here and throughout she echoes the language of more inclusive intersectional feminism but also portends the modern solidarity movements between minority groups we see today.
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Andrew Jackson On Nullification
Despite not originating in a speech, one of Andrew Jackson’s comments on nullification stands out as one of the defining moments of the seventh president’s legacy. At the annual Democratic Jefferson Day dinner on April 13, 1830, Jackson, countering Vice-President John C. Calhou’s pronullification rationale that states could nullify whatever feder laws they saw fit, rosefrom his seat and in a thundering voice pronounced: “Our federal union it must be preserved!”
Two years later, Jackson offered his Proclamation Regarding Nullfication. For many years to follow, the question remained a defining one leading up to the Civil War.
Contemporary Sources And Reaction
Eyewitness reports vary as to their view of Lincoln’s performance. In 1931, the printed recollections of 87-year-old Mrs. Sarah A. Cooke Myers, who was 19 when she attended the ceremony, suggest a dignified silence followed Lincoln’s speech: “I was close to the President and heard all of the Address, but it seemed short. Then there was an impressive silence like our Menallen Friends Meeting. There was no applause when he stopped speaking.” According to historian Shelby Foote, after Lincoln’s presentation, the applause was delayed, scattered, and “barely polite”. In contrast, Pennsylvania GovernorAndrew Gregg Curtin maintained, “He pronounced that speech in a voice that all the multitude heard. The crowd was hushed into silence because the President stood before them … It was so Impressive! It was the common remark of everybody. Such a speech, as they said it was!”
In an oft-repeated legend, Lincoln is said to have turned to his bodyguard Ward Hill Lamon and remarked that his speech, like a bad plow, “won’t scour”. According to Garry Wills, this statement has no basis in fact and largely originates from the unreliable recollections of Lamon. In Garry Wills’s view, ” had done what he wanted to do “.
Foreign newspapers also criticized Lincoln’s remarks. The Times of London commented: “The ceremony was rendered ludicrous by some of the luckless sallies of that poor President Lincoln.”
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Nelson Mandela’s I Am Prepared To Die
Delivered April 20, 1964, in Pretoria, South Africa
The address Nelson Mandela gave instead of testimony at his trial for alleged sabotage became the defining speech of the anti-apartheid movementand of his legacy as an advocate for equality in South Africa. In it, he argues that his cause is correct and explains his views, before launching into his famous conclusion, in which he states a free and equal state is “an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” Mandela was sentenced to life in prison but did not die there, instead continuing his advocacy from prison before his release 27 years later.
Elizabeth Glaser’s Address At The 1992 Democratic National Convention
Delivered July 14, 1992, in New York City
Elizabeth Glaser contracted HIV early in the AIDS epidemic after receiving a contaminated transfusion while giving birth she passed it on to both her children either through breastmilk or in utero. After her daughter passed away at age seven from AIDS, Glasner and two friends started the Pediatric AIDS Foundation, and this activism led to her invitation to speak at the DNC in 1992. There, she described the issue as “not politics” but a “crisis of caring” that led the Republican administration to fail to tackle the AIDS crisis, and she called out Democrats as well to do better. She passed away from complications of the disease two years later.
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A Time For Choosing Ronald Reagan
Chilling, poignant, and brilliantly constructed, A Time for Choosing didnt kickstart Reagans political career for nothing. There is a reason his 1964 speech still looms large over the Republican Partya reason why it overshadows anything ever said by the man Reagan was campaigning for . Nationwide, Republicans in elected office can quote The Gippers iconic address. Nearly every line is memorable. If we lose freedom here, theres no place to escape to. This is the last stand on earth.The trouble with our liberal friends is not that theyre ignorant its just that they know so much that isnt so.Where, then, is the road to peace? Well, its a simple answer after all. You and I have the courage to say to our enemies, There is a price we will not pay. There is a point beyond which they must not advance.
A Time for Choosing reminds us why the Hollywood actor would soon earn the moniker The Great Communicator. But what is perhaps most refreshing about his speech is his persuasive, clearly articulated case for conservatism. If only conservative values had such a spokesperson today! One cannot help but believe that even Comrade Bernie Sanders and Mouth-Breather AOC supporters might be persuaded by Reagans effective exposé, even though he establishes himself as an uncompromising enemy of socialism.
The Culture War Pat Buchanan
Well, speak for yourself, Hillary. By far the most partisan speech on the list, Pat Buchanans 1992 Republican Convention Address, known as the Culture War speech, is important for at least two reasons. First, after vigorously opposing the incumbent president in the primaries, the political commentator graciously managed to turn his Buchanan Brigades in support of George H. W. Bush. He made it clear that the Party must unite to fight what he called the cultural war for Americas soul. As far as he was concerned, Bill ‘Slick Willy’ Clinton, Bushs Democratic challenger, was their common enemy.Reactions to the speech are mixed . Some are uncomfortable with Buchanans mainstream strikes against cultural issues such as feminism and homosexuality. Some even go so far as to blame Bushs 92 loss on the antagonistic tone of that years Republican Convention. But it nevertheless marks a major milestone in Republican Party history.
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Sylvia Rivera’s Y’all Better Quiet Down
Delivered in 1973, at Washington Square Park, New York City, N.Y.
On June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City, and the riots that resulted jumpstarted the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement. Sylvia Rivera participated in the riots that day and began a storied career as an activist. Rivera, a transgender Puerto Rican woman, wasn’t afraid to call out what she saw as shortcomings in the movement she delivered her “Y’all Better Quiet Down” to the crowd at the Christopher Street Liberation Rally, for ignoring transgender people and other marginalized voices in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights.
Ronald Reagan’s Speech On The Challenger Disaster
Delivered: Jan. 28, 1986, via TV broadcast
The explosion of the Challenger Shuttle just seconds after took off into the sky left seven people dead, including a civilian school teacher, on the same day that President Reagan was to give the State of the Union. Instead, he called in a young speechwriter, Peggy Noonan, to write a new speech that would help the nation process the tragedy they had seen broadcast on live TV. Reagan’s speech is lauded even today for its careful balance between honoring the dead while reminding listeners of the importance of exploring the vast and unknown reaches of space, a quest for exploration for which the Challenger astronauts died.
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