If you were fortunate to hear one or more of the following selected famous speeches in history, then a portion of your life has probably been defined by it; where you were, what you were doing, and the emotions evoked. Read on and see why.
- “George Washington Prevents the Revolt of his Officers” (March 10, 1983). The War of Independence over, General George Washington was now faced with seditious grumblings from the Continental Army. Word was that the country was going broke, and would not be able to pay the Army their guaranteed salaries, bonuses and pensions. In his March 15, 1783 speech, Washington assured his officers they would be paid, and called upon their honor and patriotism, saying: “…And you will, by the dignity of your conduct, afford occasion for posterity to say, when speaking of the glorious example you have exhibited to mankind. Had this day been wanting, the world had never seen the last stage of perfection to which human nature is capable of attaining.”
- “Chief Joseph Surrenders” (1877). Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce watched settlers encroach deeper into Nez Perce territory, and then be ordered to report to an Idaho reservation. Some tribe members revolted and killed a group of settlers, and the Army was dispatched after the tribe fleeing to Canada. In response to seeing members of his tribe die on the rough journey, Chief Joseph gave the following speech of surrender: “… My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are – perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my Chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.”
- “I Have a Dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (August 28, 1963). Dr. King delivered this famous speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The purpose of the march was to put pressure on Congress to pass the civil rights law and break down barriers based on skin color. “And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
- “The Gettysburg Address” by President Abraham Lincoln (November 19, 1863). President Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to dedicate the Civil War battlefield as a National Cemetery. The speech was short, but it profound: “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…we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
- “We Choose to Go to the Moon” by President John F. Kennedy (September 12, 1962). President Kennedy went to Rice University in Houston, Texas to issue a challenge to the nation to land a man on the moon by the end of 1960s decade. “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
These five selected famous speeches in history are enmeshed within the fabric of this country.