Everyone knows the power of well chosen words and the impact of powerful political speeches can be seen even now. Throughout history public speaking has inspired people like nothing else and great public speakers have managed to leave their mark behind with their oratory skills. On various occasions, people have also managed to change the course of history itself simply using the power of words. When this happens, the speeches that those people deliver become unforgettable along with the speakers themselves. Over the course of time those speeches have either become songs or poems, or have been turned into inspirational stories. Politics has always been an arena for public speaking and it is here that many great public speakers have managed to shake the entire world with words alone. Let us look at some of the most powerful political speeches ever delivered.
10. Oliver Cromwell; April 20, 1653; House of Commons, England:
Oliver Cromwell was known to be a powerful as well as a controversial figure in the history of Britain. His vehement dismissal of the “rump” English Parliament was and still is one of the greatest political speeches that the world has ever heard. Besides that he was also known to be a military leader of the first order.
Excerpt: “It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonoured by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice… ye are a pack of mercenary wretches…Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess? Ye have no more religion than my horse…’Ye sordid prostitutes, have you not defil’d this sacred place…Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation…’Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors… In the name of God, go!”
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9. Jawaharlal Nehru; August 15, 1947; New Delhi, India:
The first Indian Prime Minister of independent India delivered his famous speech at the stroke of midnight when the nation gained freedom after more than 200 years of British rule. The speech was made immortal with the phrase ‘Tryst with destiny’ and is still remembered throughout the world as a display of great public speaking.
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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8. Socrates; 4th century B.C; Athens, Ancient Greece:
Socrates was probably the greatest and the most well known Greek philosopher of his time and is also one of the best known of all times. He was known to have great skills of oratory and his ideas were of a great influence among the youth. He was charged with corruption and misleading the people and his speech seeking not an apology but the honor of a dignified death is one of the most inspiring in history.
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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7. Charles De Gaulle; June 18, 1940; London, England:
General Charles De Gaulle delivered his speech on English soil only days after fleeing from France post the Nazi Occupation of Paris. His touching appeal to the people of France to not lose hope and to rise up against the tyranny is considered as one of the greatest speeches in history. Copies of the speech were circulated throughout France and even today the speech is etched on many monuments across France.
Excerpt: “Believe me…nothing is lost for France. The same means that overcame us can bring us victory one day. For France is not alone! She is not alone! She is not alone! She has a vast empire behind her. She can align with the British Empire that holds the sea and continues the fight… ‘Whatever happens, the flame of the French resistance must not be extinguished and will not be extinguished.”
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6. Winston Churchill; June 18, 1940; House of Commons, London:
Winston Churchill was one of the most gifted public speakers of his time. He has delivered many an inspiring speech to the English people and more so to the House of Commons. In this particular speech he sought to rouse his countrymen to rise up and face the struggles that were at hand during World War 2.
Excerpt: “We shall fight on the seas and oceans… 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.”
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5. Chaim Herzog; November 10, 1975; UN General Assembly, New York:
Chaim Herzog was the sixth president of Israel and was appointed Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations in the year 1975. His speech at the General Assembly where he prompted the resolution of Zionism is Racism still is one of the most inspiring speeches of all time.
Excerpt: “For us, the Jewish people, this resolution based on hatred, falsehood and arrogance is devoid of any moral or legal value.”
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4. Abraham Lincoln; November 19, 1863; Gettysburg, Pennsylvania:
In what is known as the Gettysburg Address, US president Abraham Lincoln addressed the nation with regards to the civil war seeking the support of the people to put an end to the unrest. Lincoln had delivered many great speeches but this particular address came to be one of his most powerful political speeches ever.
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. Mahatma Gandhi; February 4, 1916; Banaras Hindu University, India:
This speech was given by Mahatma Gandhi to rouse the upper class of people in the country who were the dominant force in the freedom movement against the British. Citing the submissive nature of the struggle and the slack displayed by the ones responsible, his speech sought to bring the common Indian man into the struggle.
Excerpt: “There is no salvation for India unless you strip yourselves of this jewellery and hold it in trust for your country men.”
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2. Nelson Mandela; April 20, 1964; Pretoria, South Africa:
Nelson Mandela was a champion of the South African struggle against white domination and he was jailed for many years without reason. He delivered this speech at his trial and it is known to be one of the greatest speeches that anyone has ever heard or delivered for that matter.
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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1. Martin Luther King Jr; August 28, 1963; Washington D.C:
Martin Luther King Jr was in bringing about racial equality for the African American people. His speech which begins with the words I have a dream is one of the most well known speeches in history. This speech changed the course of American history and was the nail in the coffin of racism in the United States of America. This is why it is on top of the most powerful political speeches.
Excerpt: “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. 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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