A great orator influences us to think or do things differently. There are many great men who with their powerful words and thoughts changed the course of history. It is truly inspiring to revisit their masterfully constructed speeches as they refresh our insights and sharpen our thoughts.
1. “We Shall Fight on the Beaches” – Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill is best remembered as the British prime minister whose speeches rallied a nation against the Nazis. The interesting fact is that he was not born a master orator. He was born with a speech impediment. But through consistent practice, he honed his talent. His calls to “fight on the beaches” and to offer their “blood, toil, tears, and sweat” inspired Britain to fight back during some of her darkest hours.
Excerpt from the speech he made on June 4, 1940 in House of Commons, London.
“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.”
2. “Ask what you can do for your country” – John F. Kennedy
Dynamic and charming John F. Kennedy’s powerful words brought fresh optimism to Americans during the time of a great national stress. His inaugural address is often ranked as one of the greatest inaugural addresses of all time.
Excerpt from the Inauguration address he made on January 20, 1961.
“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.”
3. ‘In a Democracy established by non-violence, there will be equal freedom for all’ – Mahatma Gandhi
For Gandhi, who used tactics of non-violence to defeat the British empire, his strong and powerful words were his greatest weapon. Through his speeches and writings, he inspired millions to fight against a mighty nation using nothing but satyagraha and non-violence.
Excerpt from his Quit India speech on August 8, 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. It is to join a struggle for such democracy that I invite you today. Once you realize this you will forget the differences between the Hindus and Muslims, and think of yourselves as Indians only, engaged in the common struggle for independence.”
4. “I Have a Dream” – Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech” is one of the greatest in American history. In this electrifying speech, he shared his dream for America where racial harmony prevailed. He continues to inspire people even today with the power of his speech.
Excerpt from the speech he made on August 28, 1963; Washington, D.C.
“I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification – one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”