Speakers throughout history have used their influence and public appeal along with some of their greatest speeches to inspire and unite people during times of struggle. It requires a unique combination of intellect and charisma to captivate large audiences. The best speakers have met moments of great adversity with words both vigorous and poignant, giving voice to the challenges of their time.
In my opinion, a great speaker is not one who simply entertains, but one who inspires individuals, despite their seemingly disparate interests, to act in a unified manner towards a worthy goal. There are several people in our present day who possess this innate ability. Undoubtedly, their impact on history will be determined in the future.
For now, I have chosen just a few speakers who have appeared in lists time and time again of the best speakers throughout history. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, and my methodology was simply to include individuals who during times of great strife, chose to inspire people with their words, leading people to some sense of hope and resolve.
As always, I encourage you to engage in this discussion in our comments section. Who are some of your favorite speakers from the past or present? Let us know.
History’s Greatest Speakers and Their Greatest Speeches
[VIDEO] Abraham Lincoln Mini Bio
Despite what you’ve heard, Abraham Lincoln was not a vampire hunter at any point in history. However, President Abraham Lincoln, the nation’s 16th president, was one of the greatest speakers America had ever seen.
The Civil War was a time of great divisions, and at a moment where the fate of the country was at stake, Abraham Lincoln emerged as a leader capable of bringing his nation’s citizens back together. On November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln gave his most famous speech and what is perhaps one of the greatest speeches ever written, “The Gettysburg Address.” According to the Lincoln Memorial’s website, the speech lasted only two minutes, but its impact continues to carry on.
Never underestimate the power of a few well chosen words. Enjoy more historical facts about this famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial Interactive Website. Including videos, pictures, and general information about visiting the historical site.
[VIDEO] MLK Mini Bio
Another great speaker and leader, Martin Luther King Jr. brought together people of all races in America, in many ways carrying on Abraham Lincoln’s vision for an America where, “all men were created equal,” and should be treated as equals. Martin Luther King Jr. was a man of tremendous conviction. He was willing to risk being imprisoned, assaulted, and ultimately gave his life for the cause of Civil Rights.
Martin Luther King Jr. spent his entire life dedicated to liberating the oppressed in America and seeking an end to racial segregation, a circumstance he knew all to well from his childhood growing up in Atlanta, Georgia. He led the famous Montgomery Bus Boycotts, was a proponent of nonviolent social change, and delivered his most famous speech, “I Have a Dream,” to over 200,000 people.
The legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. lives on. His teachings continue to be shared with the world through his surviving family members, and through the work they do via The King Center based in Atlanta, Georgia.
[VIDEO] JFK Mini Bio
John F. Kennedy was the nation’s 35th president. According to the White House Official Website, he was a figure of many firsts. He was the first Roman Catholic President, and sadly “Kennedy was the youngest man to be elected president; he was the youngest to die.” JFK most famously delivered the line, “Ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.” His words mobilized America’s people at a time of great uncertainty.
JFK’s gifts as an orator were well known, and his ability to unite people from all walks of life was an astounding accomplishment. One can only wonder what he might have achieved had he lived longer. His assassination on November 22nd, 1963 is a moment few who were living during the time will forget. Much like the attacks on Pearl Harbor and the attacks of September 11th, his tragic death marks a critical point in American history.
[VIDEO] Dwight D. Eisenhower Mini Bio
As a general he emerged victorious from World War II, and his tenure as president was one of many other victories. Eisenhower’s most famous speech seemed to be not only an address, but a warning. As a military man, Eisenhower knew all too well what war meant. He knew that its costs were great, and that its existence would not quickly fade away.
His speech warning of the “Military Industrial Complex,” is among my favorite speeches of all time. It’s part premonition and part world-weary wisdom from a man who’d seen the consequences of war up close and personal. Much of what he said can be seen in our current foreign affairs, and it would be interesting to know what he might think of today’s political climate.
[VIDEO] Winston Churchill
[quote] You ask what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory. Victory at all costs. Victory in spite of all terror. Victory however long and hard the road may be. For without victory there is no survival.”[/quote]Our final speaker, Winston Churchill, was a man of fiery proclamations and great determination. Winston Churchill was a British Politician and former Prime Minister, most well known for his leadership in the UK during World War II. His most famous speeches are his, “Iron Curtain,” and “Their Finest Hour,” to the House of Commons. A summary of his most famous quotations are available at the Churchill Centre Website, and many of his other speeches are located there as well.
Great speakers have the ability to bring people together when circumstances seem to be pulling them apart. As time goes on, many great speakers will continue to emerge, and if they choose their words well, we’ll continue to remember them for generations to come.
What do you think Studio 602ers? What are some of the greatest speakers and greatest speeches of all time? Sound off in the comments below!