The Most Compelling Speeches in History

president-john-f-kennedy-396982_1920If you have ever spoken in front of an audience you know how tricky this experience can be. On one hand, it is a privilege to deliver a message to a group of people. On the other hand, it is a challenge to speak in a way that your words would have an impact on the life of those listening to you. Not every speaker can come close to that effect. Some of them lack specific skills to have that impact. Others simply don’t know what tools they can use to make their speech engaging for an audience. There are also some who just don’t have enough courage or confidence to deliver the message in a compelling manner. It is useful to practice and learn some manipulation techniques as it is likely you are going to need those skills in future. But maybe the most effective study tool in his context is to have a look at some of the most compelling speeches of great leaders…

Great Speeches the World Has Ever Heard

1. ‘I Have a Dream’ by Martin Luther King, Jr. Many people believe this speech was one of the defining moments in the civil rights movement in America. On August 28, 1963 Martin Luther King, Jr. called to bring an end to racism in the USA as well as addressed civil and economic rights issues. He did nothing but talked on his vision of racial harmony in his country but his passion and oratory skills made this speech one of the great speeches in history. “We have come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism…”, said King urging people of America to action.

2. Great speeches shouldn’t be necessarily long. Abraham Lincoln once in his Gettysburg Address delivered a powerful message as he was dedicating a cemetery to the soldiers who gave their life in Gettysburg. If put to writing, his speech wound be under 300 words but it had a great impact on those listening. His speech wasn’t based on manipulation techniques or anything like that; it was a passionate plea to honor the fallen soldiers by continuing in the things they have fought for.

3. Almost 40 years ago Ronald Reagan at the Brandenburg Gate delivered a speech which was more like a challenge to Mikhail Gorbachev. “As long as this gate is closed, as long as this scar of a wall is permitted to stand, it is not the German question alone that remains open, but the question of freedom for all mankind.”, he said. But this powerful address “to tear down the wall” is still remember today. Although there is no wall like that today there are many other “walls” that question freedom for all mankind.

4. John F. Kennedy, the youngest President of his time, emphasized the importance of national service in his inaugural address in 1961. Although he spent about two months preparing for this speech it was quite brief when he delivered it. Most of people today remember the words he said in that speech “ask not what the country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” These words are still relevant today.

5. We would like to close this list with one famous philosopher, Socrates, who unlike the previous great speakers had to deliver a message which was to define whether he would live or die. It was delivered in the presence of an Athens jury in 4th century BC. It was an apology as he was defending himself from convictions rendered by his peers. The great speeches usually changed the course of a history. This one didn’t change the fact that Socrates would die since his speech proved unsuccessful at that time. But what he said was considered a rhetoric masterpiece that highlighted the limitations of human knowledge. And despite all discoveries and scientific developments available for us now, his words probably wouldn’t have changed if he was to die today: “The hour of departure has come as we go our ways – I to die, and you to live. Which better God only knows.”

 

The speeches of great leaders is a great source for study in public speaking. Maybe you won’t find any manipulation techniques there but they still can teach us more than some of the books on public speaking available today. The good thing is that you can easily find most of the speeches of great leaders online. At least those speeches given above are all available free of charge on different websites. All you have to do is to find and read them.
The interesting thing about all of those talks is that they were passionate pleas or challenges addressed to people. All of them were relevant and addressed a specific problem either in a local society or even in the world. If you can learn one thing about public speaking from this article it is that you should be relevant, passionate, and knowledgeable in what you speak.