History Podcasts

Famous Speeches in History

Famous Speeches in History

Throughout the ages politicians have used the power of a passionate speech to encourage and motivate people to their cause. Although we may remember quotes from some of the greatest speeches, the most famous ones are not only known for what was said, but what was accomplished.

Socrates: “The Unexamined Life is Not Worth Living” 4th century B.C.

Although Socrates' speech was not very successful back when he delivered it to a jury in Athens its content still has great significance today. Socrates could not sway the jury and was sentenced to death, but his speech has had a great influence on philosophy as we know it.

Patrick Henry “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” 1775

In a church in Richmond, Patrick Henry gave this passionate speech to encourage his fellow Virginians to mobilize their forces against the British.

Abraham Lincoln “The Gettysburg Address”, 1863

After 8,000 soldiers died at the Battle of Gettysburg, the community decided to build them a cemetery and asked Lincoln to deliver a speech at its inauguration. Although this speech was intended to be a casual afterthought and he wrote these 272 words on the back of an envelope while traveling by train, it was such an inspired work that it is known as one of the three founding documents of American liberty today.

Susan B. Anthony “Women's Right to Vote”, 1872

Susan B. Anthony was a co-founder of the National Women's Suffrage Association and fought for women's right to vote. She was arrested for voting in the presidential election in November 1872 and given a fine. With her speech, in which she pointed out that the U.S. Constitution referred to all American people and not only the male citizens, she paved the way for the eventual ratification of the 19th Amendment, giving women voting rights.

Winston Churchill “We Shall Fight on the Beaches”, 1940

Winston Churchill may have been born with a speech impediment, but he is known today for delivering some of the greatest speeches in history. When Allied Forces found themselves dangerously trapped in Dunkirk during the Battle of France, they had to be evacuated in a huge effort known as Operation Dynamo. On June 4, 1940 Churchill delivered this speech before the House of Commons, to report on what was actually a military disaster and to issue a warning of an invasion attempt by the Nazis while still inspiring optimism about eventual victory.

Martin Luther King “I Have a Dream” August 28, 1963

In this very famous speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. called on Americans to stop racism in the U.S. In his speech, he painted a picture of his dream of equality and freedom in a land of hatred and slavery. “I Have a Dream” is ranked as one of the top speeches that shaped modern America.