10 Most Famous Speeches of All Time

The pen is mightier than the sword” is a metonymy, we all have heard at least once in our lives. The pen is mightier, as the words it can spill, can hold the capacity to leave an everlasting impression that generations throughout the world remembers forever. Words do hold the power to influence and motivate as well as the power to destroy and demotivate.

From a long time now, influencers, celebrities, politicians, authorities everywhere have been giving speeches on different concerns. Speeches have become an entirely common thing and are part of  our everyday life now. Some grab our attention whereas some just dissipate away from our minds. Speeches, come and go, however, there have been some speeches in the history of the world that have been so powerful that their impact, and their message, continues to echo in our ears.

Here is the list of some of those famous speeches:

  1. “I HAVE A DREAM” by Martin Luther King Jr. (1963)

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character..”
Civil Rights Activist  Martin Luther King Jr. who gave his life fighting against the unjust and brutal discriminations that were forced upon African-Americans, gave this famous speech in Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC on 28th August, 1963 stating how racism and inequality still persisted in America. 

He brought out the fact that although the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 abolished slavery and freed the people of colour yet even after a 100 years, racism and inequality still remained in the roots of the United States making it a land of hatred and slavery. King lay out his dream to see people not judging others on the basis of their skin color but on the basis of their character. He brought forward the need to “rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice”

This speech was a defining moment in the Civil Rights movement of the United States which sensitised billions of people all around the world against the brutality of racial discrimination. King’s name still remains imprinted in the golden pages of history for his work and this speech still continues to ring in our ears. 

2. “AIN’T I A WOMAN” by Sojourner Truth (1851)

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back and get it right side up again. And now they are asking to do it, the men better let them.

Sojourner Truth gave this speech at the Women’s Right Convention in Ohio in 1851.Truth was born in slavery but escaped its shackles in 1826. She was a feminist activist and abolitionist. 

She gave this speech in response to the male ministers who were against the convention and were protesting against it by saying that women are weaker and intellectually inferior to men. They said that in the bible, Jesus was a man and Eve, a woman who had sinned. They used these points to cite the male dominance in Christian cases. Truth was a devoted Christian who with her own interpretation and knowledge from the Bible answered back.

3. “A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN”  by Virginia Woolf (1928)

My belief is that if we live another century or so – I am talking of the common life which is the real life and not of the little separate lives which we live as individuals – and have five hundred a year each of us and rooms of our own; if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think…’

Virginia Woolf was a famous English modernist author of the 20th century. This speech was from a series of her lectures that she delivered in Newnham College and Girton College for women under University of Cambridge.

This piece of her speech which she later converted into an extended essay is heralded as a feminist manifesto. In this speech, she talks about patriarchy and unjust deprivation of free access to education and freedom to women. Woolf, who herself had been a victim of the brutality of patriarchy, defied her own father who believed that only boys profited from schooling, with her inner strength and free spirit. She said, “‘Lock up your libraries if you like, but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.’

4. “GIVE ME BLOOD, I WILL GIVE YOU FREEDOM”  by Subhash Chandra Bose 

Friends! my comrades in the War of Liberation! Today I demand of you one thing, above all. I demand of you blood. It is blood alone that can avenge the blood that the enemy has spilt. It is blood alone that can pay the price of freedom. Give me blood and I promise you freedom.

Subhash Chandra Bose was an Indian Nationalist and a prominent leader during the colonial period of British rule in India. Unlike Mahatma Gandhi who was against violence, he had different ideas about attaining India’s independence and freedom from the British rule. He formed the Azad Hind Army.

This speech, infused fresh palpable energy in the youth at large and gave them a fresh zeal to fight for Independence. It became a popular anthem, the echoes of which are heard even today when we talk about struggle for freedom in India.

5. ROOSEVELT’S INAUGURATION SPEECH by Franklin D Roosevelt (1933)

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”
Franklin D. Roosevelt was the 32nd President of the United States of America.
He gave this speech on March 4, 1933 on the day of his inauguration as the President of the USA.

His speech gave people hope that his leadership will take the nation from the brink of economy into a shining broad daylight. It gave them strength and had a huge impact on Americans since America was deep into depression at the time of his inauguration. This speech still remains to be a remarkable one and continues to be quoted even today.
Roosevelt’s presidency during the Great Depression and the World War II was stunning and  succeeded in bringing out America from the worst economic-crisis.

6. “WOMEN RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS” by Hillary Clinton (1995)

“As long as discrimination and inequities remain so commonplace everywhere in the world, as long as girls and women are valued less, fed less, fed last, overworked, underpaid, not schooled, subjected to violence in and outside their homes — the potential of the human family to create a peaceful, prosperous world will not be realized.”

Hillary Clinton gave this speech in UN Congress on Woman in Beijing on 5th September, 1995. She talked about how women,  denied of their rights, become a victims of gender-based violence and gender-based discrimination everywhere in the world. She tried to sensitise people by bringing into light the fact, that, a peaceful world can not be created until and unless these discriminations are done away with.

Regardless of the many opinions of Clinton’s politics, this speech became a turning point for how women’s right are discussed on the international political stage.

7. “GETTYSBURG ADDRESS” by Abraham Lincoln (1863)

‘The government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.’

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of America delivered this 272-word speech on 19th November, 1863 on the battlefield near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in dedication to the soldiers who were killed in the Gettysburg War during the American Civil War.
Lincoln played a crucial role in American Civil War. In this speech he brought out the unfortunate truth that how a Nation that was “conceived in Liberty” and was dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal” had to engage in the great Civil war to bring out the idea on which it was founded on. He tried to give a new impetus to the citizens of his country that the death of those who devoted their lives to fight the injustice won’t be vain, that the nation will have a new birth of freedom and that the Government “of the people, by the people, for the people” will not perish.

8. “QUIT INDIA” by Mahatma Gandhi  (1942)

In the democracy which I have envisaged, a democracy established by non-violence, there will be equal freedom for all. Everybody will be his own master.”

Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation delivered this address on 8th August 1942 on the eve of Quit India Movement, calling for “Do or Die.”. India had been under the unjust British Colonial rule for almost two centuries when Gandhi called for a passive but determined protest to achieve the goal of complete independence from the shackles of the British Raj. He called for a non-violent stance and “an orderly British Withdrawal from India.” His speech gave a fresh impetus to people and a mass protests were launched. 

Unfortunately, almost the entire Congress Leadership Body was arrested within 24-hours of this speech and Britishers were easily able to crush the Quit India Movement with the help of All India Muslim League and Viceroy’s Council. However, this speech did infuse a fresh zeal and desperation for Independence and five years later India did succeed in liberating herself from British Rule.

9. “WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie  (2012)

“We teach girls shame. Close your legs, cover yourself, we make them feel as though by being born female they’re already guilty of something. And so girls grow up to be women who cannot see they have desire. They grow up to be women who silence themselves. They grow up to be women who cannot say what they truly think. And they grow up–and this is the worst thing we do to girls–they grow up to be women who turn pretense into an art form”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian writer and  novelist, spoke these powerful words in her Ted Talk. She talked about how the struggle for equality remained in terms of gender and sexuality. She brought out the harsh reality that in a world that claims itself to be modern, in the era where technology advances everyday, a huge segment of our society is still deep-rooted into an old-school mentality where girls right from their birth are silenced.

10. “OBAMA’S INAUGURATION SPEECH” by Barack Obama (2008)

‘It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and always will be, the United States of America.’

Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America and the first-ever African-American to become a President of United-States delivered this powerful address on 4th November, 2008 after winning the election. 

He highlighted that this victory was a sign that America is finally liberating itself from the evils of discrimination and injustice. His speech reflected the ideals of his ancestors as well as his vision of the future. He induced hope and unity and lay down his ideals that arose faith and trust in Americans for him.  

As Robin Sharma says, “Words can inspire, and words can destroy. Choose yours well.”, these words have imprinted themselves in the hearts of the people and will forever resonate as an epitome of inspiration.

- Nivedita Kundu

Source: https://mindgrad.com/free-reads/f/10-most-famous-speeches-of-all-time

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