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Top 10 Greatest Speeches of All Times

January 24, 2010 8:10 AM

Greatest Speeches of All TimesWords, if chosen wisely - can be divine. When they are written in religious texts, they become deity. When they are written in a nation’s rulebook, they become law. When they go along with a musical composition, they become songs. And when they are delivered in style for a cause, with lot of passion - they become great speeches. Out of those great speeches, some become immortal. They change the course of history. They have long lasting impact on listeners psyche. Not only this, but they also inspire the generations to come. They are timeless jewels. People of any age and in any era are moved by listening or reading them.

However, it is not easy to decide upon the top 10 list of all time great speeches. We know any such list would be subjected to debate. But healthy debates are always good. If you think the list missed on any speech, please feel free to mention in comments.

The list consists of greatest political speeches of all times. We have chosen the speeches that are rich in style, content and left an overwhelming impact on people. The winners are….

10. Duty, Honor, Country - General Douglas MacArthur

May 12, 1962; New York

General Douglas MacArthur, General of the Army and a man who fought in three wars, knew something of “Duty, Honor, Country.” In 1962, MacArthur was in the twilight of his life and came to West Point to accept the Sylvanus Thayer Award and participate in his final cadet roll call.

Notable Excerpts:
Duty, Honor, Country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.
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9. Apology – Socrates

4th century B.C. Athens, Ancient Greece

Socrates, a great scholar and teacher in Athens, was facing the charges of corruption and misleading the people. People, especially youngsters were greatly influenced by his words and ideas. The rulers found him threatening to their throne. Socrates was arrested and put on trial. Court was set and he was asked to say something in his defense. ‘The Apology’ is what Socrates said in his defense. Instead of pleading for guilty, he chose to die with dignity.

Notable Excerpt:
Wherefore, O judges, be of good cheer about death, and know this of a truth -- that no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death. He and his are not neglected by the gods; nor has my own approaching end happened by mere chance. But I see clearly that to die and be released was better for me; and therefore the oracle gave no sign. For which reason also, I am not angry with my accusers, or my condemners; they have done me no harm, although neither of them meant to do me any good; and for this I may gently blame them.
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8. Give me Liberty or Give me Death – Patrick Henry

March 23, 1775; Virginia, United States

Patrick Henry made this famous speech before the Virginia House of Burgesses at St. John's Church. After the speech, his resolution to organize the militia of Virginia and to put the colony of Virginia on a war footing was unanimously adopted in that colony.

Notable Excerpt:
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, peace, peace -- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! -- I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
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7. Tryst with Destiny – Jawaharlal Nehru

August 15, 1947; New Delhi, India

After more than 200 years of British rule, India got independence on 15th August 1947. Jawaharlal Nehru became the first prime minister of independent India. He delivered this speech on the stroke of midnight before the constituent assembly. The speech became famous for its ‘tryst with destiny’ remark.

Notable Excerpt:
Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.
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6. Ask What You Can Do For Your Country - John F. Kennedy

January 20, 1961;Washington D.C.

This speech was made by John F. Kennedy as inaugural address on January 20, 1961. In this speech he asks all Americans to unite against common enemies of tyranny, poverty, disease, and war.

Notable Excerpt:
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.
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5. Their Finest Hour - Winston Churchill

June 18, 1940; House of Commons, London

On May 10, 1940, the Germans attacked France and on June 14 Paris fell. As France surrendered, Germans next target was England. But Great Britain refused to bow in front of Fascism and Nazism. At this critical juncture Churchill gave this third and final speech to bring hope to his people in these dark hours.

Notable Excerpt:
Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”
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4. Gettysburg Address - Abraham Lincoln

November 19, 1863 Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

On June 1, 1865, Senator Charles Sumner commented on what is now considered the most famous speech by President Abraham Lincoln. It is perhaps the most quoted speech in the history of United States.

Notable Excerpt:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war.
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3. I am prepared to die – Nelson Mandela

April 20, 1964; Pretoria, South Africa

This speech was made from the dock at the opening of Mandela's trial on charges of sabotage, Supreme Court of South Africa, Pretoria, April 20 1964.

Notable Excerpt:
During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
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2. We shall Fight on the Beaches - Winston Churchill

4 June, 1940; House of Commons, London

This speech was given shortly after Winston Churchill became Prime Minister. It was second of the three well known speeches given by Churchill during the Battle of France. Others are, “Blood, toil, tears, and sweat”, and “This was their finest hour”.

Notable Excerpt:
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.
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1. I have a Dream - Martin Luther King Jr.

August 28, 1963; Washington D.C.

"I Have a Dream" is one of the most popular speeches in the history, delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr., in which he called for racial equality and an end to discrimination. Delivered to over 200,000 civil rights supporters, the speech is often considered to be one of the greatest and most notable speeches in human history and was ranked the top American speech of the 20th century by a 1999 poll of scholars of public address.

Notable Excerpt:
I have a dream today!
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.
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Anonymous said...

How could you leave out The Sermon on the Mount by Jesus of Nazareth? That ought to be the speech with the most impact of all time.

admin said...

Sorry, we have covered political speeches only. The Sermon on the Mount by Jesus of Nazareth is no doubt one of the greatest speeches delivered ever.


Tumelo said...

I am disappointed to find that "I Am An African", the speech by Thabo Mbeki, the former president of South Africa, has been left out. That speech was not only harmonious, but made an impact to millions of Africans.

preacherjonson said...

Im sorry but listen to the final speech in 'The Great Dictator' and tell me it doesn't belong in this list :P


these are the great men who inspire the twenty first century.
Their stories reverberates throughout the world.

Hari Krishna Aravindan said...


cutejoanne said...

I am a simple living creature and i found the speeches very strucking.

sailo said...

John F. Kennedy's speech is best from all

Prof. Raj M. said...

Any list of greatest speeches in the world is incomplete without Mahatma Gandhi's 'Quit India'.

satish kumar said...

vivekanada's speech given by him in chicago should be one among these greatest speechs

admin said...

Thank you Sailo.

admin said...

Thank you Raj! Quit India speech by M.K. Gandhi was certainly a great speech.

admin said...

Thank you Satish for giving a read to this post and made me realize what I missed. I read Vivekananda's speech again and must say that it was just brilliant.

paul lusewa said...

How did u manage to leave along the speech of Mao! What about Mahtma?

Moncy Kottayam said...

You are right sir. I can't think of renowned speakers list without Swami Vivekananda. The man who introduced great emotional salutation "My brothers and sisters. .."

admin said...

Thank you Moncy. I totally agree with what you wrote. This post will definitely feature when I write the second part of this post.

Thanks again.