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Top 10 Famous Historical Speeches


There are those speeches that one can remember almost verbatim. You often remember exactly where you were at that moment. Incidentally, this does not apply to all speeches below. If only because a number of speeches were given a long time ago!

10. “The Greatest Speech Ever” – Charlie Chaplin (1940)

First and foremost, you should actually hear and see every speech. That certainly applies to Charlie Chaplin’s ‘The Greatest Speech Ever’. These words were part of the movie ‘ The Great Dictator ‘. Charlie Chaplin calls for solidarity in an inimitable way. Soldiers from all over the world should fight not against – but with – each other! Together we should work towards a better world. As you can conclude from the year in which this speech was delivered, they were on the eve of the Second World War. In ‘The Greatest Speech Ever’, Chaplin expressed his concern about the bitterness that had gripped many people.

9. “Tear down this wall!” -Ronald Reagan (1987)

In 1987, Ronald Reagan – then president of the United States – paid a visit to Europe. Then came the cold war; a period of peace under arms control between the capitalist world – the west – and the communist world. By the latter world was meant the east. On June 12, Ronald Reagan delivered a legendary speech at the Brandenburg Gate. The Berlin Wall was silhouetted in the background. His words were addressed to Mikhail Gorbachev. The former secretary general of the communist Soviet Union was urged to tear down the Berlin Wall. According to Reagan, this was the first step towards greater freedom for the inhabitants of the Soviet Union. Incidentally, it would be several years before the wall was torn down.

8. The ladies not for turning – Margaret Thatcher (1980)

Margaret Thatcher silenced her opponents by uttering the legendary words ‘the lady’s not for turning’. For your image; In the early 1980s, England – Europe in general – was in the throes of a severe recession. Like any leader, Thatcher was regularly criticized for her policies. More specifically, she was blamed for the increased unemployment. With her speech, Margaret Thatcher made it clear that she did not want to give in to an inch. Incidentally, the speech in question was written by speechwriter Sir Ronald Millar. The pair have worked together for years. You could say that Margaret Thatcher’s image – iron lady – has been built up very carefully.

7. Gettysburg Address – Abraham Lincoln (1863)

Abraham Lincoln has proven that a speech does not have to take long to leave an indelible impression. In 1863 he uttered a total of 266 words. Little did he then suspect that these words would be included in the curriculum in American schools! In his words – entitled the ‘Gettysburg Address’ – Abraham Lincoln gave a particularly striking account of the American Civil War. He spoke the words at the gravesite of 7,863 American civilians who had died at the Battle of Gettysburg. Before the photographer knew it, Abraham Lincoln had already stepped off the stage! His speech took less than two minutes.

6. “Ask not what your country can do for you” – John F. Kennedy (1961)

In November 1960, John F. Kennedy was declared the winner of the presidential election. He narrowly beat his Republican rival Richard Nixon. During his inaugural address – which lasted less than 14 minutes – Kennedy referred, among other things, to the impact of the Cold War. However, another passage made more of an impression! He used the words ‘ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country’. The American people were held accountable for self-reliance. Of course Kennedy played smart on the ‘American dream’. Later, Obama was inspired by his words. In turn – in his victory speech – he has spoken similar words.

5. “It’s a small step for a man…” – Neil Armstrong (1969)

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong spoke the legendary words ‘it’s a small step for a man’. Or did he say: ‘it’s a small step for man’? You do not want to know how often people have listened to the fragment in question. That one word makes a big difference! Starting from the first case, his words can be translated as follows: ‘one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’. The second case would detract from the success story. Anyway, the American astronaut had just gone down the ladder of the lunar lander Apollo 11 and had set foot on the moon – the first human being.

4. “An ideal for which I am prepared to die” – Nelson Mandela (1964)

Do you remember Nelson Mandela’s speech after his release in 1990? This included the words ‘an ideal for whom I am prepared to die’. Incidentally, he has spoken these words before. In 1964 to be exact; then Nelson Mandela had to answer to court. He had been arrested two years earlier. It was clear that they would not let him go. In his defense – which he wrote himself – Mandela made it clear that nothing and no one could take his ideals away from him. He wanted to give his life for the interests – and freedom – of black Africans.

3. “We shall fight on the beaches” – Churchill (1940)

In June 1940, the Germans set foot in France. It became clear to all European leaders that Adolf Hitler would not let it grow. To reassure his people – and to send a signal to other leaders – Winston Churchill gave a number of speeches. He has given one of these the title ‘We shall fight on the beaches’.
He uttered the relevant words on June 4, 1940. Just before that—on May 13, to be precise—Churchill had delivered the speech ‘Blood, toil, tears and sweat’. The third speech in this series – titled ‘This was their finest hour’ – took place on June 18, 1940. You can speak of a kind of triptych.

2. “Ich bin ein Berliner” – John F. Kennedy (1963)

John F. Kennedy’s state visit to West Germany has given the president – ​​and his staff – many sleepless nights. Not only did European leaders make it clear that they thought Kennedy was just a jerk, but all this also took place in the setting of the Cold War. A lot of time was therefore spent on the speech – which the American president would give. Despite the well-intentioned advice of his regular speechwriter, Kennedy went to work with the text himself. With his own hands he added the sentence ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’. Little did he know at the time that he would make history.

1. “I have a dream” – Martin Luther King (1963)

Although the American Civil War “officially” ended in 1865, it took more than a century for the rights of black Americans to be respected. In 1963 several protest marches took place. Also on August 28 in Washington. This march ended at the Lincoln Memorial; here 18 speakers addressed the crowd. One of them – Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. – said what the audience wanted to hear. King touched the nerve with the words ‘I have a dream’. In fact, his words proved invaluable.

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