Dwight Eisenhower’s Atoms For Peace
Delivered Dec. 8, 1953, at the UN General Assembly, New York City, N.Y.
The development of nuclear warfare gave the Cold War higher stakes and led to fears of a potential nuclear holocaust should something go wrong. In his “Atoms for Peace” speech before the UN, Eisenhower admitted that he needed to speak in a “new language…the language of atomic warfare,” and for the first time let the public know what the atomic age actually meant. Ultimately, the speech demonstrated the need for nuclear disarmament due to its destructive power at the same time, the huge danger offered the U.S. an excuse to continue the arms race with the USSR after the Soviets refused to disarm.
Looking At 10 Great Speeches In American History
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.s I Have A Dream speech certainly ranks highly in the pantheon of public speaking. Here is a look at the Dream speech and other addresses that moved people and history.
In 1999, a survey of 137 public speaking and political scholars ranked the 100 most-important political speeches of the 21st Century. The academics evaluated speeches on the basis of their social and political impact, and rhetorical artistry.
Kings Dream speech from August 28, 1963 topped the list, followed by John F. Kennedys 1961 inaugural address and Franklin Roosevelts first inaugural address in 1933. In fact, three of Kings speeches were included in the top 50 speeches listed by the experts.
The eclectic list included public speeches from Barbara Jordan, Richard Nixon, Malcom X and Ronald Reagan in the top 10 of the rankings.
Link: Read The List
Public speaking has played an important role in our countrys story. Here is a quick look at some of the landmark speeches that often pop up in the discussion about public rhetoric.
1. Patrick Henry.Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death. In March 1775, Henry spoke to a Virginia convention considering a breakaway from British rule. The war is actually begun. The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms, said Henry, who spoke without notes. I know not what course others may take but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!
Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death Patrick Henry
In March of 1775, the citizens of the 13 Colonies were divided. They were British citizens and many were patriotic to the Crown. However, in the five years prior to this famous speech by Patrick Henry, the colonies were in turmoil.
The British military spent vast amounts of gold defending the Colonies from other nations, pirates, and Indians. Since the French and Indian war ended in 1763, the British army had set up forts to protect the colonies from incursions from the frontier. King George decided that the Colonists should be responsible for funding these military campaigns. So, he instituted a series of ever-increasing taxes on the Colonists.
Angry townspeople debated in pubs throughout the 13 Colonies. However, the biggest thorn in the side of King George was Massachusetts. The Boston Massacre and the BostonTea Party were a couple of the more famous incidents. A few months before Henrys famous speech, the First Continental Congress sent a letter of grievances to the King. They were still awaiting a reply.
Then, a few weeks before the speech, the British military marched on Concord to confiscate a cache of weapons from suspected rebels. For the first time, the British military had marched on British citizens in the Colonies. The Second Continental Congress was meeting in Philadelphia. The delegates were debating whether or not to join the revolution.
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.
Quit India By Mahatma Gandhi
We shall either free India or die in the attempt we shall not live to see the perpetuation of our slavery. Every true Congressman or woman will join the struggle with an inflexible determination not to remain alive to see the country in bondage and slavery. Let that be your pledge. Keep jails out of your consideration. If the Government keep me free, I will not put on the Government the strain of maintaining a large number of prisoners at a time, when it is in trouble. Let every man and woman live every moment of his or her life hereafter in the consciousness that he or she eats or lives for achieving freedom and will die, if need be, to attain that goal. Take a pledge, with God and your own conscience as witness, that you will no longer rest till freedom is achieved and will be prepared to lay down your lives in the attempt to achieve it. He who loses his life will gain it he who will seek to save it shall lose it. Freedom is not for the coward or the faint-hearted.
Naturally, the revolutionary activist Gandhi had to appear in this list for his impassioned anti-colonial speeches which rallied Indians towards independence. Famous for leading non-violent demonstrations, his speeches were a key element in gathering Indians of all backgrounds together for the common cause of eliminating their colonial masters. His speeches were resolute, eloquent, and courageous, inspiring the hope and admiration of many not just within India, but around the world.
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This Is Water By David Foster Wallace
Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the centre of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.
American History Through Its Greatest Speeches: A Documentary History Of The United States
What did America’s greatest orators say regarding significant issues and concerns throughout United States history? This three-volume set examines hundreds of the most historically significant speeches from colonial times to the modern era, allowing readers to consider exactly what the speakers saidand to better understand the motivations behind each speech as well as the effect on the audiences that heard them.
Presents chronologically arranged entries that provide a documentary view of American history through the speeches that have shaped the United States
Includes background material that gives students primary texts to work with and helps them develop their critical reading, thinking, and writing skills
Supplies extensive background information that places each speech in its historical context
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Theodore Roosevelt’s The Man With The Muckrake
Delivered April 14, 1906, in Washington D.C.
Investigative journalism was booming in the first decade of the 20th century, as Progressive Era muckraking writers continued to publicize injustices to the country. These journalists had one powerful enemy: President Theodore Roosevelt, as he disliked writers who focused on bad things at the exclusion of all the good that was happening. His speech didn’t call for these journalists to stop their practices of uncovering corrupt businessmen but reminded writers that their work affects public outlook and opinion, so only focusing on the worst moments could have a negative impact on the fabric of the nation.
Martin Luther King Jr’s Beyond Vietnam: Breaking The Silence
Delivered on April 4, 1967, in New York City, N.Y.
Though today Martin Luther King is revered by nearly all Americans as a powerful spokesman for equal rights and integration, not every political opinion was popular among the American public. Exactly one year before he was assassinated, King spoke out against the Vietnam War. He accused America of ignoring conflicts at home in favor of war abroad, pointing out the “cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools.” Delivered several years before popular opinion on the war changed, King lost many of the powerful allies in government and media due to this speech.
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Kennedys We Choose To Go To The Moon Speech
Date: September 12, 1962
Context: In the name of national security, the United States and USSR set their sights on spaceflight as a top priority during the Cold War. To the surprise of people around the globe, the Soviet Union launched the first-ever artificial satellite in 1957, then sent the first human being into space in 1961, signaling to onlookers that its nation was a technological force to be reckoned with. Kennedy was determined to come up with a challenge in space technology that the United States actually stood a chance to win. In the early 60s, he proposed that America focus on putting a man on the moon. In an uplifting speech at Rice University, Kennedy reminded his listeners of the countrys technological progress so far and of his administrations determination to continue the pioneering spirit of early America into the new frontier of space.
Notable Quote: We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.
Lyndon B Johnsons Great Society Speech
Date: May 22, 1964
Context: Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as President in 1963, immediately following Kennedys assassination. Johnson vowed to continue the former presidents work on poverty, civil rights, and other issues. Inspired in part by FDRs New Deal, he devised a set of programs intended to completely eliminate poverty and racial injustice. In 1964, he formally proposed some specific goals in a speech to the University of Michigan, where he coined the lofty ideal of a Great Society.
Notable Quote: Your imagination, your initiative, and your indignation will determine whether we build a society where progress is the servant of our needs, or a society where old values and new visions are buried under unbridled growth. For in your time we have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Pearl Harbor Address To The Nation
The attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, shocked the United States to its core, outraging a nation that had hoped to stay out of the mounting turmoil in Asia and Europe. Overnight, the country united in desire to enter the war. The day after the attacks, FDR addressed the nation in a brief, but electrifying speech, declaring war on Japan and giving assurance that the United States would attain victory.
Be sure to listen to the audio of the speech. Imagine every American family, rattled and worried, listening around the radio to what their president would say. They knew their whole world was about to change forever. Listen to the reaction of Congress as they applaud and cheer FDR’s words. The emotion is so very real and palatable it truly transports you back to that critical moment in time.
Read the full text here.
Winston Churchill Blood Sweat And Tears
May 13, 1940 House of Commons, London
Winston Churchill’s first speech to the House of Commons as Britain’s new Prime Minister got off to an auspicious start. His welcome to that assembly was quite tepid, while outgoing PM Neville Chamberlain was enthusiastically applauded . But Churchill’s first speech, the first of three powerful oratories he gave during the Battle of France, would prove that England was in more than capable hands. A seemingly unstoppable Hitler was advancing rapidly across Europe, and Churchill wasted no time in calling his people to arms. While TR had actually been the first to utter the phrase, “blood, sweat and tears,” it was Churchill’s use of these words that would leave an inedible and inspiring impression upon the world’s mind.
Read full text of speech here.
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Lyndon B Johnsons We Shall Overcome Speech
Date: March 15, 1965
Context: By the 1960s, blacks in areas of the Deep South found themselves disenfranchised by state voting laws, such as those requiring a poll tax, literacy tests, or knowledge of the U.S. constitution. Furthermore, these laws were sometimes applied subjectively, leading to the prevention of even educated blacks from voting or registering to vote. Inspired by Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., protests were planned throughout the region. Eight days after racial violence erupted around one of these protests in Selma, Alabama, President Johnson addressed Congress to declare that every American citizen must have an equal right to vote and that discriminatory policies were denying African-Americans that right.
Notable Quote: What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and State of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life. Their cause must be our cause too. Because its not just Negroes, but really its all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome
This great, rich, restless country can offer opportunity and education and hope to all, all black and white, all North and South, sharecropper and city dweller. These are the enemies: poverty, ignorance, disease. Theyre our enemies, not our fellow man, not our neighbor. And these enemies toopoverty, disease, and ignorance: we shall overcome.
John F Kennedy’s Inaugural Speech In 1961
President John F. Kennedy making his inauguration speech on Jan. 20, 1961, from the East Portico of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
In his first 14-minute speech as commander-in-chief, President John F. Kennedy in 1961 inspired kids and adults alike to see the importance of public service and civic action with the memorable line: “My fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for youask what you can do for your country.” Kennedy spoke to whom he called “a new generation of Americans born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage.”
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The Hypocrisy Of American Slavery By Frederick Douglass
What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham your boasted liberty an unholy license your national greatness, swelling vanity your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mock your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour.Go search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World,travel through South America, search out every abuse and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.
Vladimir Lenins Speech At An International Meeting In Berne February 8 1916
Vladimir Lenin remains to this day one of the most lauded communist revolutionaries in the world who brought the dangers of imperialism and capitalism to light with his rousing speeches condemning capitalist structures of power which inevitably enslave people to lives of misery and class stratification. In his genuine passion for the rights of the working class, he urged fellow comrades to turn the imperialist war into a civil or class war of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie. He encouraged the development of new revolutionary socialist organisations, solidarity across places in society so people could unite against their capitalist overlords, and criticised nationalism for its divisive effect on the socialist movement. In this speech especially, he lambasts bloody Tsarism for its oppression of millions of people of other nationalities in Russia, calling for the working class people to revolt against the Tsarist authority for the proletariat revolution to succeed and liberate them from class oppression.
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