Best political speech of all time.
Definitely in the top 10:
YouTube – Barbara Jordan 1976 Democratic Convention
(just a portion. Entire audio here:
American Rhetoric: Barbara Jordan – 1976 Democratic National Convention Keynote Address
Americanrhetoric.com has tons of great audio and video.
I’ve heard a lot of them in my half-century, but even as a very young child, hearing a replay of Kennedy’s inaugural speech from ’61 just blew my mind, made my pulse quicken and yearn for a quarter-century of Kennedy brothers in office. FFC on that.
Second best was Churchill on the radio exhorting the Brit’s in the war effort. “We shall fight them…”.
Jordan was a master of the repetition, she would often even say, “Let me underscore that.”
Here’s a great example from the 1976 address:
“I have confidence that we can form this kind of national community.
I have confidence that the Democratic Party can lead the way.
I have that confidence.”
Nothing beats Lincoln’s Second Inaugural. Telling people actively engaged in brutally killing each other to have “malice toward none, with charity for all”? That’s nervy. I could do without all the religiosity, but talk about appealing to the better side of people.
I love Barbara Jordans speech. It may not have come readily to mind – thanks virgotex. Another great speech from a texan would be the Ann Richards speech from the 1992(?) convention.
If it qualifies, my all-time favorite has to be the one that Ted Kennedy gave at his brother Robert’s funeral. While not given in a political context, it did remind us all of the policies of RFK. And it inspired us to keep on.
I’m a fan of Kennedy’s New Frontier speech; great message, great delivery.
For fake presidents, it’s Martin Sheen at the end of “Game On” or whatever the debate episode is called. I could watch that one over and over.
Howard Dean’s speech when he announced his candidacy for the presidency was an exceptionally good speech, moving many people to tears as they listened. That was a pure political speech. Barbara Jordan made many speeches that were among the best ever.
The late Robin Cook’s resignation speech:
It’s a beautiful piece of controlled fury, moving because of its precision rather than its soaring oratory. Of course, it didn’t make any difference.
Gandhi’s speech on the eve of the Salt March (Dandi march, 1930) is probably the most powerful. It was the beginning of the end of colonialism and a step towards the creation of a free Indian state.
Fidel Castro’sspeech to the U.N. General Assembly, 1979:
Mr. President, distinguished representatives: Human rights are often spoken of, but we must also speak of humanity’s rights. Why should some people walk around barefoot so that others may travel in expensive cars? Why should some live only 35 years so that others may live 70? Why should some be miserably poor so that others may be exaggeratedly rich? I speak on behalf of the children in the world who do not even have a piece of bread. [applause] I speak on behalf of the sick who lack medicine. I speak on behalf of those who have been denied the right to life and human dignity.
Some countries are on the sea; others are not. [applause] Some have energy resources; others do not. Some possess abundant land on which to produce food; others do not. Some are so glutted with machinery and factories that even the air cannot be breathed because of the poisoned atmosphere; [applause] while others have nothing more than their emaciated arms with which to earn their daily bread. In short, some countries possess abundant resources; others have nothing.
What is their fate? To starve? To be eternally poor? Why then civilization? Why then the conscience of man? Why then the United Nations? [applause] Why then the world? One cannot speak of peace on behalf of tens of millions of human beings all over the world who are starving to death or dying of curable diseases. One cannot speak of peace on behalf of 900 million illiterates.
The exploitation of the poor countries by the rich countries must cease. I know that in many poor countries there are both exploiters and exploited. I address myself to the rich nations, asking them to contribute. And I address myself to the poor countries, asking them to distribute. Enough of words. We need deeds. [applause]
Enough of abstractions. We need concrete action. Enough of speaking about a speculative new international economic order that nobody understands. [applause] We must speak of a real, objective order that everybody understands.
I have not come here as a prophet of revolution. I have not come here to ask or to wish that the world be violently convulsed. I have come to speak of peace and cooperation among the peoples. And I have come to warn that if we do not peacefully and wisely resolve the present injustices and inequalities, the futurewill be apocalyptic. [applause] The sounds of weapons, of threatening language, and of prepotent behavior on the international arena must cease. [applause]
Enough of the illusion that the problems of the world can be solved by nuclear weapons. Bombs may kill the hungry, the sick, and the ignorant, but they cannot kill hunger, disease, and ignorance. Nor can they kill the righteous rebellion of the peoples. And in the holocaust, the rich — who have the most to lose in this world — will also die. [applause]
Let us say farewell to arms, and let us in a civilized manner dedicate ourselves to the most pressing problems of our times. This is the responsibility and the most sacred duty all the world’s statesmen. This, moreover, is the basic premise for human survival.
MLK – I have a dream.
“That my 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 — the single most moving speech of my lifetime.
Most relevant speech given the current political climate –
Ike’s Militray Industrial Complex speech, his laat as president.
Though not the most inspiring or emotive speaker Ike was able to foresee our twisted fate five decades prior.
Lincoln – Cooper’s Union
It’s a toss-up between FDR’s first inaugural address and his 1941 State of the Union address (the “Four Freedoms” speech).
Damn, that man could lay it down.
I really lean toward the Four Freedoms speech. Freedom from want, and freedom from fear? Can you imagine someone putting that out there today?
Here’s a pretty obscure one:Jimmy Carter’s Law Day address from 1974. It didn’t receive wide media coverage when it was delivered, but many of its themes would echo in Carter’s 1976 campaign.
It was an impressive overture from an incipient presidential candidate; even the ever-cynical Dr. Gonzo (who happened to be in attendance that day) was impressed.
Churchill’s Finest Hour speech. He needed to send messages to the French, the Americans, the other parts of the British commonwealth, and the British people themselves, not to mention Parliament. He did so, and in beautiful language. Americans listening would have felt that they were shirking their moral duty if they didn’t help. He treated his own people like adults with courage and toughness, and gave them an unvarnished picture of the struggle they faced. And they responded. As we would respond, if we had a leader like Churchill. (Sigh.)
Lincoln’s Second Inaugural gets my vote, too, for some of the same reasons. It’s hard to address multiple audiences (in Lincoln’s case, not only the Union states, but also the people of the Confederacy) and not sound disconnected. Lincoln did it, and did it using every tool he had to make his case. It did what a State of the Union ought to do (imho), which is to lay out what the president expects to do in the years to come. It’s a crying shame that he didn’t get a chance to carry out his plan. Instead, we got Andrew Johnson against the Radical Republicans and an impeachment trial that was the worst incident of partisan bickering until the next impeachment trial came along…
Al Gore’s 2000 Presidential Concession Speech, sad and moving. It was his most passionate speech of the entire campaign. Too bad it cameafter the election.
“…Almost a century and a half ago, Sen. Stephen Douglas told Abraham Lincoln, who had just defeated him for the presidency, ‘Partisan feeling must yield to patriotism. I’m with you, Mr. President, and God bless you.’
Well, in that same spirit, I say to President-elect Bush that what remains of partisan rancor must now be put aside, and may God bless his stewardship of this country.
Neither he nor I anticipated this long and difficult road. Certainly neither of us wanted it to happen. Yet it came, and now it has ended, resolved, as it must be resolved, through the honored institutions of our democracy…”
Short but sweet
Hard to say which is the best, but there’s something transcendent when RFK quotes Aeschylus from memory to soothe a shocked crowd in Indianapolis, after informing them of MLK’s assassination.
Here’s a vote for Mario Cuomo’s “Two Cities” keynote address at the ’84 convention.
Otherwise known as “The Night I Became a Democrat and Never Looked Back.”
RFK NOT only quoting Aeschylus but also pronouncing his name correctly.
Kennedy inauguration speech.
FDR’s state of the union 1941.
FDR day of infamy speech…when I hear that I get super patriotic, even though I am not patriotic in the slightest.
Damn, Roundhead, you took mine. Cuomo ’84!
I’m a young’n but when I read that speech, and then found the audio on the internet, I played it over and over and cried at how beautiful it was, and how much we’re still so totally screwed.
Otter: Point of parliamentary procedure!
Hoover: Don’t screw around, they’re serious this time!
Otter: Take it easy, I’m pre-law.
Boon: I thought you were pre-med.
Otter: What’s the difference?
[Addressing the room]
Otter: Ladies and gentlemen, I’ll be brief. The issue here is not whether we broke a few rules, or took a few liberties with our female party guests – we did.
[winks at Dean Wormer]
Otter: But you can’t hold a whole fraternity responsible for the behavior of a few, sick twisted individuals. For if you do, then shouldn’t we blame the whole fraternity system? And if the whole fraternity system is guilty, then isn’t this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? I put it to you, Greg – isn’t this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we’re not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America. Gentlemen!
[Leads the Deltas out of the hearing, all humming the Star-Spangled Banner]
I can’t pick one.
LBJ announcing he would not run nor accept a draft in ’68 broke my heart. It was the first time any political speech had done so.
Ann Richards: “Where was George?” the ’92 Dem convention speech.
Only a compleat idjit would leave out Gettysburg.
There is a You-Tube of LBJ’s “We Shall Overcome” speech. It’s the best damn 53 seconds of political expression in my lifetime.
Go listen. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKDVNSpsBZE
Many very good choices, I’d like to mention an outstanding one that does not get enough attention. Hubert Humphrey’s speech in support of the civil right plank of the 1948 Dem convention.
“To those who say, my friends, to those who say, that we are rushing this issue of civil rights, I say to them we are 172 years too late! To those who say, this civil rights program is an infringement on states’ rights, I say this: the time has arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states’ rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights!”
This cause assholes like Strom to walk out & good riddance!
I’ll throw one in just to mix it up…Jesse Jackson’s address to the 1984 Democratic Convention.
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