Speech serves as our primary means of communication worldwide. They assist us in sharing our feelings and thoughts with others. We can communicate more effectively by choosing the appropriate words and tone. From a larger perspective, speeches have consistently resulted in significant changes throughout history. Speeches made by many great orators, pioneers, and leaders have even altered the course of history.
Best Inspirational & Famous English Speeches!
They inspired people to do better, to create an impact, and even changed the circumstances so that new boundaries had to be marked on the map. With this background, we have compiled a list of some of the best speeches in English. This will be really helpful for your school/college essays or even exams. Each speech on this list has had a significant impact on society in some way or the other. Many phrases from these speeches have also become popular as individual quotes.
“Books are of the people, by the people, for the people.”
William Lyon Phelps was an American author, critic, and orator. He delivered this speech on May 6, 1933, through a radio broadcast, responding to the German Student Union’s effort to burn books officially. This “The Nazis Book Burning” effort was one of history’s most terrifying rituals. William Phelps tried to convince the audience of the importance of books and literature in this speech. He firmly asserts that books can enlighten everyone who reads.
Additionally, he compares borrowed books and guests, emphasizing the former’s need for special care. Sadly, his respect for books wasn’t shared by everybody, and on May 10, 1933, twenty-five thousand volumes of “un-German” books, that is, books that represented the ideologies opposing Nazism, were burnt. Many famous books by authors such as Ernest Hemingway, H.G. Wells, and Karl Marx were set on fire. Despite the horrific incident, his speech created an impact and is heard by everyone, even today. If you look forward to hearing a simple and impactful speech, this one’s for you!
📷 Getty Images
“I have a dream that my four little 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” is a public speech by Martin Luther King Jr., an American civil rights activist, during the Great March on Washington. This speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., was an homage to President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. It was one of the most famous speeches in the history of the Civil Rights Movement and is also regarded as one of the most iconic speeches in American history.
His speech addressed racial discrimination in America and emphasized the need to be treated equally. It was believed that his speech marked the beginning to the end of America’s long history of racial prejudice. Throughout the speech, King acknowledges the past while promising hope for the future. In his speech, he uses “I have a dream” several times to express his desire for a different future for upcoming generations.
If you look forward to hearing a powerful speech, this one’s for you!
📷 Associated Press
“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”
John F Kennedy, the youngest man ever elected President of the United States, delivered his first inaugural address on January 20, 1961. His speech was one of the best presidential inaugural speeches in American history. Throughout his speech, he emphasizes that the public holds power. However, it is entirely up to them whether they choose to use it positively or negatively.
As his speech was given at the time of the cold war in the United States, he addressed the challenges of the same and focussed on attaining peace. He calls every citizen and reminds them of their duty to the nation. Though he was assassinated during the same tenure, his speech still wins hearts.
“Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.”
The co-founder of Apple and Pixar Studios, Steve Jobs, an iconic figure in business and technology, delivered a commencement speech at Stanford University on June 12, 2005. In his speech, he addresses three key events from his life: his college dropout, his termination from Apple, the company he founded, and his battle with pancreatic cancer, during which he reflected on death. With the help of these anecdotes, he points out that failures are temporary and that we should always keep trying.
His speech is still relevant today because it highlights fundamental life issues. He shows that life can be difficult; one must put their heart and soul into achieving what one wants, and all struggles need not be romanticized. He also discusses the importance of living for oneself and not worrying about other people’s thoughts, which is particularly relevant today. This speech is tailor-made for today’s youth, given the rise of existential crises in the current world.
📷 Getty Images
“The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices – submit or fight.”
The three-hour speech Nelson Mandela delivered on April 20, 1964, is titled “I Am Prepared to Die.” During the Rivonia trial, he was put with the death penalty in front of him. Instead of defending himself by making a legal argument, he delivered a powerful speech outlining his vision for a democratic South Africa. He emphasizes his vision of an equitable society in his speech.
He compared the government’s treatment of black and white children to demonstrate the harm done to society. The ultimate aim behind his address was to acknowledge that black and white people should move away from the taunting past and unify for a robust future. One of the greatest speeches of the 20th century!
“Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
The Gettysburg Address is a speech by American President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on November 19, 1863. The speech was delivered after the “Battle of Gettysburg,” one of the deadliest battles. It was one of the most famous speeches in American history, consisting of only 271 words, among which only 130 were distinct, with others repeated.
The speech honored the sacrifice of over fifty thousand men who died fighting the battle. It sent out a message of equality centered on the pillars of hope and determination. Lincoln tells the people to preserve the ideals the soldiers had given their lives for. He also assures that the country will have a fresh breath of freedom and always stand for equality. A short speech that is long remembered!
📷 Bodhisattwa, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
“It is blood alone can that pay the price of freedom.”
Subhash Chandra Bose, known as Netaji, was an Indian Independence activist and a freedom fighter. He displayed exceptional courage and conviction and gave his entire life to the Indian Freedom Movement. He was also well known for delivering rousing speeches that motivated the Indians to fight for their nation’s independence. One of his most famous speeches was “Give Me Blood, and I promise you freedom,” which he delivered to members of the Indian National Army in Burma in 1944.
The title of this address is taken from the last line of his speech. Through this speech, he demonstrates his steadfast devotion to our motherland, ability to persevere in adversity, and willingness to make sacrifices for the country’s good. His captivating leadership and combat strategies are evident throughout this speech, inspiring thousands of Indians to join the Independence movement. Despite his tragic disappearance, the aura and charisma he exuded during this speech continues to uplift many people today.
📷 Associated Press
“We shall never surrender.”
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill delivered a speech titled, “We shall fight on the beaches,” to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom on June 4, 1940. This speech was the second of three powerful speeches he delivered during the Battle of France. This was one of World War II’s most influential and legendary speeches. This speech also depicted the truth as it was. This differs from the kind of proper uplifting speech one usually hears during the war.
The speech focussed on the losses they endured while reflecting on the more challenging times ahead. Despite their difficulties, he adds hope to the speech by fervently promising to battle on beaches, hills, streets, and seas and “never surrender.” Apart from the audience gathered in the House of Commons, many people did not receive a live radio broadcast of Churchill’s speech till many years later.
📷 National Gallery of Art, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
“Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me!”
Sojourner Truth was an abolitionist and advocate for women’s rights in the nineteenth century. Born to slavery, she was the first black lady to sue a white man successfully. She made the speech “Ain’t I a Woman?” at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio, in 1851. Initially, the speech didn’t have a title, and it didn’t immediately win over many people. However, it received widespread acclaim in the later years.
One of its print editions chose this title because the question served as the speech’s central theme. In her speech, she addresses issues such as women being the weaker sex and less intelligent than men and men being superior to women. She uses her own body as a demonstration of female strength. She has never been helped into a carriage by a man or backed down from manual labor.
She has experienced the emotional pain of slavery and has worked many manual labor jobs. She further claims that even God had to rely on a woman named Mary to bring Jesus into the world. If you look forward to hearing speeches that challenge racial and gender discrimination, this speech can be your take!
📷 Special Collections Library, UVA Library
“I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail.”
American author William Cuthbert Faulkner is renowned for his short stories and novels. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature and gave a speech at the Nobel Banquet in Stockholm on December 10, 1950. In his speech, he conveys to the audience that writing is a contribution to humanity and not a way to attain fame. Through the repeated use of words like “sweat and agony,” he asserts that writing is pure hard work and is a tenacious task.
Faulkner also urges writers to focus on human emotions and write about them. By mentioning the human heart conflicting with itself, he conveys that we humans, apart from having problems with other people, have issues even within ourselves. This a sophisticated speech for all aspiring writers out there!
The list mentioned above is just a little compilation of the best speeches in English. What is your favorite speech from the list? Do share your thoughts below. Happy listening!
I am a freelance content writer and book reviewer who loves unleashing creativity, one pen stroke at a time. I like reading and writing about what I read. In an attempt to explore and introduce Tamil and Indian literature. Welcome to my world!