The hallmark of a great leader is his ability to connect with each one of his followers, touch their hearts and inspire their minds. A great speech can have this effect. It can move millions of people to stand against the strongest enemy as one. It can bring tears to the eyes of millions or fill their hearts with the desire to break free from their oppressors. There have been many great leaders who have delivered some of the most honest, emotional and moving speeches ever. Let’s take a look at the top 10 such emotional speeches ever given.
10. The Appeal of 18 June, Charles de Gaulle:
In 1940 when Germany invaded France, the leader of the Free French Forces, General Charles de Gaulle, fled to England when he realized that the government was not willing to fight the Germans. In London he gave a speech on BBC radio that implored the French citizens to not give up hope. He talked about the war being a worldwide war and inspired not just the French but the people of the rest of the world to unite and fight against the common enemy.
9. Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation, Franklin D. Roosevelt:
On December 7 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, forcing US to join the World War. The next day of the attack, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave a speech to declare war on Japan. The speech was short but full of emotion and was met by cheers from the congress and from the whole nation as everyone united to defend their country.
8. Freedom or Death, Emmeline Pankhurst:
This speech given in Connecticut, USA on November 13, 1913 by Emmeline Pankhurst, who was the leader of the British Suffragette movement. She inspired countless women of USA to claim their own right of equality to men and their right to property and vote. This is an important speech in the global feminist movement.
7. Surrender Speech, Chief Joseph:
This is a heart wrenching speech given by a devastated Indian chief in 1877. It depicts the plight of the Native Americans during those years as his tribe was driven off of their land and many people were lost to fighting. Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe surrendered to General Nelson A. Miles on October 5 that year and gave this speech to his fellow men stating that he’s tired and doesn’t want to fight anymore.
6. Quit India Speech, Mahatma Gandhi:
In 1942 Mahatma Gandhi decided that it was time for the British Raj to quit India and go back. He gave this speech on 8 August where he encouraged the people to unite and forget about their religious and caste based differences. He also appealed that it was time to either do or die. He started the non violent civil disobedience movement that eventually led to India’s freedom.
5. Fourth of July Speech, Frederick Douglass:
Frederick Douglass was an African American former slave who was a very famous orator and spoke for the abolitionist movement in America. He was asked to speak on the Fourth of July in New York in 1852 and he pointed out the hypocrisy of a nation celebrating the values of equality and freedom while half of the country still legally hadn’t abolished slavery.
4. Farewell to Baseball, Lou Gehrig:
Lou Gehrig was the beloved Yankee baseball player who was nicknamed the Iron Horse for his longevity and commitment to the game. He played 2,130 consecutive games but at the age of 36 he suffered a rare crippling disease that now bears his name. On 4th of July 1939, he retired from baseball and his farewell speech was one of hope and inspiration despite his medical condition.
3. We Shall Fight on the Beaches, Winston Churchill:
Winston Churchill was probably the second best orator of the Second World War after only Hitler, who despite being the most evil person ever, was a very good orator. Churchill’s speeches were able to unite the whole nation and his voice became the voice of the just trying to fight an evil force. This particular speech was given to the parliament on June 4 1940 where he had to announce that Britain was going to war with Germany as France was about to fall and Germany would soon be at their doorstep.
2. Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln:
This speech has to be one of the greatest speeches ever. It was just a 3 minute address by Abraham Lincoln at the opening of a cemetery in Gettysburg where more than 8000 men had died in the now famous battle. The 272 word speech is an inspired piece of writing that Lincoln scribbled on the back of an envelop while on the train. It talks about liberty and democracy and contains the famous words “government of the people, by the people and for the people” which now describe what a democracy should be.
1. I Have a Dream, Martin Luther King Jr.:
“I have a dream” are words that have become symbolic of Martin Luther King Jr. and the fight against apartheid. He delivered this speech on August 28, 1963 in Washington DC and expressed his hope and his dream that one day there will be real equality in America and whites and blacks will be treated the same. It was one of the greatest moments in the history of humanity.