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Top 100 American Speeches of the 20th Century

October 26, 2009
One of the Master Orators of the 20th Century

One of the Master Orators of the 20th Century

One of our members Kyle remarked on his last speech to the Talk for Change Toastmasters that the best way to learn is to learn from the Masters. There have been master orators of their time who brought to this country the change they wanted through their voice.

Here’s a link which has a listing of the “Top 100 America Speeches of the 20th Century”.If the link is unavailable, click “read more”. We have excerpted the site.

Top 100 American Speeches of the 20th Century

(Clipped from http://highered.mcgraw-hill.com/sites/007256296x/student_view0/top_100_speeches_.html)

The following list ranks the top 100 American speeches of the 20th century as determined in a nationwide survey of 137 communication scholars, conducted by Stephen E. Lucas (University of Wisconsin) and Martin J. Medhurst (Texas A&M University). The speeches were rated on two criteria: rhetorical artistry and historical impact. To be eligible for consideration, a speech did not need to have been presented in the United States, but the speaker had to be a U.S. resident. There were no restrictions on the genres or topics of speeches, or on the number of speeches from a single speaker.

Following the title of each speech is at least one link to a website with a transcript of that speech. In all but a few cases, the websites provide complete texts. Many also furnish historical background about the speech and/or links to additional sites with information about the speaker, speech or occasion.

  1. Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream” August 28, 1963 Washington, DC
    1. U.S. Constitution Online
    2. History and Politics Out Loud
  2. John F. Kennedy Inaugural Address January 20, 1961 Washington, DC
    1. History Place
    2. Kennedy Library
  3. Franklin D. Roosevelt First Inaugural Address March 4, 1933 Washington, DC
    1. History Place
    2. Great American Speeches
      (Speech needs to be accessed through Timeline. Go to 1930s and click on link to FDR’s Inaugural.)
  4. Franklin D. Roosevelt War Message (“A Date Which Will Live in Infamy”) December 8, 1941 Washington, DC
    1. History Place
    2. American Experience
  5. Barbara Jordan Keynote Speech to the Democratic National Convention July 12, 1976 New York, NY
    1. Tribute to Barbara Jordan
    2. History Channel
  6. Nixon, Nixon “My Side of the Story” (“Checkers”) September 23, 1952 Los Angeles, CA
    1. History Place
    2. History Channel
  7. Malcolm X, “The Ballot or the Bullet” April 3, 1964 Cleveland, OH
    1. Speech Transcript
  8. Ronald Reagan Address to the Nation on the Challenger Disaster January 28, 1986 Washington, DC:
    1. History Place
    2. Reagan Official Site
  9. John F. Kennedy Speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association September 12, 1960 Houston, TX
    1. Civnet
    2. Kennedy Library
  10. Lyndon B. Johnson Address to Congress on the Voting Rights Act (“We Shall Overcome”) March 15, 1965 Washington, DC
    1. History Place
    2. History and Politics Out Loud
  11. Mario Cuomo Keynote Speech to the Democratic National Convention (“A Tale of Two Cities”) July 17, 1984 San Francisco, CA
    1. Great Speeches
      (Speech needs to be accessed through Timeline. Go to 1980s and click on link to Cuomo’s Keynote Address.)
    2. History Channel
  12. Jesse Jackson Speech at the Democratic National Convention (“The Rainbow Coalition”) July 17, 1984 San Francisco, CA
    1. Frontline
    2. History Channel
  13. Barbara Jordan Statement on the Articles of Impeachment July 25, 1974 Washington, DC
    1. Tribute to Barbara Jordan
    2. Gifts of Speech
  14. Douglas MacArthur Farewell Address to Congress (“Old Soldiers Never Die”) April 19, 1951 Washington, DC
    1. American Experience
    2. History Channel
  15. Martin Luther King, Jr. “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” April 3, 1968 Memphis, TN
    1. Memphis: We Remember
  16. Theodore Roosevelt “The Man with the Muck Rake” April 14, 1906 Washington, DC
    1. American Experience
  17. Robert F. Kennedy Statement on the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. April 4, 1968 Indianapolis, IN
    1. History Place
    2. Kennedy Library
  18. Dwight D. Eisenhower Farewell Address January 17, 1961 Washington, DC
    1. Eisenhower Library
    2. History Channel
  19. Woodrow Wilson War Message (“The World Must Be Made Safe for Democracy”) April 2, 1917 Washington, DC
    1. World War I Document Archive
    2. Foreign Policy Documents
  20. Douglas MacArthur Farewell Address at the U.S. Military Academy (“Duty, Honor, Country”) May 12, 1962 West Point, NY
    1. American Experience
  21. Richard M. Nixon Address to the Nation on the War in Vietnam (“The Great Silent Majority”) November 3, 1969 Washington, DC
    1. CNN
    2. American Experience
  22. John F. Kennedy “Ich bin ein Berliner” June 26, 1963 West Berlin, Germany
    1. History Place
    2. Kennedy Library
  23. Clarence Darrow Plea for Mercy at the Trial of Leopold and Loeb August 22, 23, and 25, 1924 Chicago, IL
    1. Douglass
    2. Famous American Trials
  24. Russell Conwell “Acres of Diamonds” 1900-1925 Delivered at many spots across the U.S.
    1. Temple University
  25. Ronald Reagan Televised Speech on Behalf of Barry Goldwater (“A Time for Choosing”) October 27, 1964 Los Angeles, CA
    1. Reagan Official Site
  26. Huey Pierce Long “Every Man a King” February 23, 1934 Washington, DC
    1. Speech Transcript
  27. Anna Howard Shaw “The Fundamental Principle of a Republic” June 21, 1915 Ogdensburg, NY
    1. Gifts of Speech
    2. Great Speeches
      (Speech needs to be accessed through Timeline. Go to 1910s and click on link to Anna Howard Shaw’s speech.)
  28. Franklin D. Roosevelt “The Arsenal of Democracy” December 29, 1940 Washington, DC
    1. Fireside Chats of Franklin D. Roosevelt
    2. Presidential Rhetoric
  29. Ronald Reagan Speech to the National Association of Evangelicals (“The Evil Empire”) March 8, 1983 Orlando, FL
    1. Reagan Official Site
  30. Ronald Reagan First Inaugural Address January 20, 1981 Washington, DC
    1. Reagan Official Site
    2. American Presidency
  31. Franklin D. Roosevelt First Fireside Chat (“The Banking Crisis”) March 12, 1933 Washington, DC
    1. Fireside Chats of Franklin D. Roosevelt
    2. Presidential Rhetoric
  32. Harry S. Truman Address to Congress on Greece and Turkey (“The Truman Doctrine”) March 12, 1947 Washington, DC
    1. American Experience
    2. Presidential Rhetoric
  33. William Faulkner Speech Accepting the Nobel Prize in Literature December 10, 1950 Stockholm, Sweden
    1. History Place
    2. William Faulkner on the Web
  34. Eugene V. Debs Statement to the Court September 14, 1918 Cleveland, OH
    1. Speech Transcript
  35. Hillary Rodham Clinton Address to the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women (“Women’s Rights Are Humans Rights”) September 5, 1995 Beijing, China
    1. Douglass
    2. Gifts of Speech
  36. Dwight D. Eisenhower “Atoms for Peace” December 8, 1953 New York, NY
    1. Eisenhower Library
    2. Presidential Rhetoric
  37. John F. Kennedy American University Speech June 10,1963 Washington, DC
    1. Great Speeches
      (Speech needs to be accessed through Timeline. Go to 1960s and click on link to Kennedy’s speech at American University.)
    2. Kennedy Library
  38. Ann Richards Keynote Speech to the Democratic National Convention July 18, 1988 Atlanta, GA
    1. Gifts of Speech
    2. <!–

    3. Scanning from Victoria L. DeFrancisco and Marvin D. Jensen, Women’s Voices in Our Time, pp.49-60.
    4. –>

  39. Richard M. Nixon Address to the Nation Resigning the Presidency August 8, 1974 Washington, DC
    1. History Place
    2. American Experience
  40. Woodrow Wilson “The Fourteen Points” January 8, 1918 Washington, DC
    1. History Place
    2. World War I Document Archive
  41. Margaret Chase Smith “Declaration of Conscience” June 1, 1950 Washington, DC
    1. Smith Library
    2. Gifts of Speech
  42. Franklin D. Roosevelt “The Four Freedoms” January 6, 1941 Washington, DC
    1. American History
    2. Public Library
  43. Martin Luther King, Jr. Speech at Riverside Church (“A Time to Break Silence”) April 4, 1967 New York, NY
    1. American Rhetoric
    2. <!–

    3. Transcript to Black History
    4. –>

  44. Mary Church Terrell “What It Means to Be Colored in the Capital of the United States” October 10, 1906 Washington, DC
    1. Speech Transcript
  45. William Jennings Bryan Speech Accepting the Democratic Presidential Nomination (“Against Imperialism”) August 8, 1900 Indianapolis, IN
    1. BoondocksNet
  46. Margaret Sanger “A Moral Necessity for Birth Control” 1921-1922 Delivered several times for the American Birth Control League
    1. Speech Transcript
  47. Barbara Bush Commencement Speech at Wellesley College (“Choices and Change”) June 1, 1990 Wellesley, MA
    1. Wellesley College
    2. Gifts of Speech
  48. John F. Kennedy Address to the Nation on Civil Rights (“A Moral Issue”) June 11, 1963 Washington, DC
    1. American Experience
    2. Kennedy Library
  49. John F. Kennedy Address to the Nation on the Cuban Missile Crisis October 22, 1962 Washington, DC
    1. History Place
    2. Kennedy Library
  50. Spiro Agnew “Television News Coverage” November 13, 1969 Des Moines, IA
    1. Great Speeches
      (Speech needs to be accessed through Timeline. Go to 1960s and click on link to T. Spiro Agnew’s speech.)
  51. Jesse Jackson Speech to the Democratic National Convention (“Common Ground and Common Sense”) July 20, 1988 Atlanta, GA
    1. Frontline
  52. Mary Fisher Speech to the Republican National Convention (“A Whisper of AIDS”) August 19, 1992 Houston, TX
    1. Gifts of Speech
    2. <!–

    3. Scanning from The Art of Public Speaking, 7/e, pp.B12-B15.
    4. –>

  53. Lyndon B. Johnson “The Great Society” May 22, 1964 Ann Arbor, MI
    1. American Experience
    2. Johnson Library
  54. George C. Marshall “The Marshall Plan” June 5, 1947 Cambridge, MA
    1. History Place
    2. History and Politics Out Loud
  55. Edward M. Kennedy “Truth and Tolerance in America” October 3, 1983 Lynchburg, VA
    1. Speech Transcript
  56. Adlai Stevenson Speech Accepting the Democratic Presidential Nomination (“Let’s Talk Sense to American People”) July 26, 1952 Chicago, IL
    1. Speech Transcript
  57. Eleanor Roosevelt “The Struggle for Human Rights” September 28, 1948 Paris, France
    1. Speech Transcript
  58. Geraldine Ferraro Speech Accepting the Democratic Vice-Presidential Nomination July 19, 1984 San Francisco, CA
    1. All Politics
  59. Robert M. La Follette “Free Speech in Wartime” October 6, 1917 Washington, DC
    1. Great Speeches
      (Speech needs to be accessed through Timeline. Go to 1910s and click on link to La Follette’s speech for an abridged text.)
  60. Ronald Reagan Address at the U.S. Ranger Monument on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day June 6, 1984 Pointe du Hoc, Normandy, France
    1. Reagan Official Site
  61. Mario Cuomo “Religious Belief and Public Morality” September 13, 1984 Notre Dame, IN
    1. Notre Dame University
  62. Edward M. Kennedy Televised Statement to the People of Massachusetts (“Chappaquiddick”) July 25, 1969 Boston, MA
    1. Speech Transcript
  63. John L. Lewis “Labor and the Nation” (“The Rights of Labor”) September 3, 1937 Washington, DC
    1. Speech Transcript
  64. Barry Goldwater Speech Accepting the Republican Presidential Nomination (“Extremism in the Defense of Liberty Is No Vice”) July 16, 1964 San Francisco, CA
    1. Washington Post
  65. Stokely Carmichael “Black Power” October 1966 Berkeley, CA
      <!–

    1. Transcript
    2. –>

    3. Speech Transcript
  66. Hubert H. Humphrey Speech at the Democratic National Convention (“The Sunshine of Human Rights”) July 14, 1948 Philadelphia, PA
    1. Great Speeches
      (Speech needs to be accessed through Timeline. Go to 1940s and click on link to Hubert Humphrey’s speech.)
  67. Emma Goldman Address to the Jury July 9, 1917 New York, NY
    1. Goldman Papers
    2. Gifts of Speech
  68. Carrie Chapman Catt “The Crisis” September 7, 1916 Atlantic City, NJ
    1. Speech Transcript
  69. Newton W. Minow “Television and the Public Interest” (“A Vast Wasteland”) May 9, 1961 Washington, DC
    1. Speech Transcript
    2. History Channel
  70. Edward M. Kennedy Eulogy to Robert Kennedy June 8, 1968 New York, NY
    1. Great Speeches
      (Speech needs to be accessed through Timeline. Go to 1960s and click on link to Edward M. Kennedy’s speech.)
    2. Kennedy Library
  71. Anita Hill Statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee October 11, 1991 Washington, DC
    1. Gifts of Speech
    2. History Channel
  72. Woodrow Wilson Final Address in Support of the League of Nations September 25, 1919 Pueblo, CO
    1. Presidential Rhetoric
  73. Lou Gehrig Farewell to Baseball July 4, 1939 New York, NY
    1. History Place
    2. History Channel
  74. Richard M. Nixon Address to the Nation on the Cambodian Incursion April 30, 1970 Washington, DC
    1. American Experience
  75. Carrie Chapman Catt “Address to the United States Congress” November 1917 Washington, DC
    1. Speech Transcript
  76. Edward M. Kennedy Speech at the Democratic National Convention (“The Dream Shall Never Die”) August 12, 1980 New York, NY
    1. History Place
    2. Kennedy Library
  77. Lyndon B. Johnson Address to the Nation on Vietnam and the Decision Not to Seek Re-Election March 31, 1968 Washington, DC
    1. History Place
    2. Johnson Library
  78. Franklin D. Roosevelt Speech to the Commonwealth Club September 23, 1932 San Francisco, CA
    1. Speech Transcript
  79. Woodrow Wilson First Inaugural Address March 4, 1913 Washington, DC
    1. Readings in US Democracy
    2. American Presidency
  80. Mario Savio “An End to History” December 2, 1964 Berkeley, CA
    1. Free Speech Archives
  81. Elizabeth Glaser Speech at the Democratic National Convention (“AIDS: A Personal Story”) July 14, 1992 New York, NY
    1. Speech Transcript
    2. Sue’s Cyber Cottage
  82. Eugene V. Debs “The Issue” May 23, 1908 Girard, KS
    1. Douglass
  83. Margaret Sanger The Children’s Era March 1925 New York, NY
    1. Speech Transcript
  84. Ursula Le Guin “A Left-Handed Commencement Address” May 22, 1983 Oakland, CA
    1. Gifts of Speech
  85. Crystal Eastman “Now We Can Begin” September-October 1920 New York, NY
    1. The History Net
  86. Huey Pierce Long Radio Broadcast of March 7, 1935 (“Share Our Wealth”) March 7, 1935 Washington, DC
    1. Huey Long’s Senate Speeches
    2. (Go to Congressional Record entry of March 12, 1935, for the complete text of Long’s speech.)

  87. Gerald Ford Address on Taking the Oath of Office (“Our Long National Nightmare Is Over”) August 9, 1974 Washington, DC
    1. History Place
    2. Ford Library
  88. Cesar Chavez Speech on Ending His Fast March 10, 1968 Delano, CA
    1. Viva Cesar E. Chavez
  89. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn Statement at the Smith Act Trial February 2, 1953 New York, NY
    1. Speech Transcript
  90. Jimmy Carter Address to the Nation on Energy and National Goals (“A Crisis of Confidence”) July 15, 1979 Washington, DC
    1. Presidential Rhetoric
  91. Malcolm X “Message to the Grassroots” November 10, 1963 Detroit, MI
    1. Speech Transcript
    2. Malcolm X Speaks
  92. Bill Clinton Speech at the Prayer Service for Victims of the Oklahoma City Bombing April 23, 1995 Oklahoma City, OK
    1. National Archives
  93. Shirley Chisholm “For the Equal Rights Amendment” August 10, 1970 Washington, DC
    1. Speech Transcript
  94. Ronald Reagan Address at the Brandenburg Gate June 12, 1987 West Berlin, Germany
    1. Reagan Official Site
  95. Elie Wiesel “The Perils of Indifference” April 12, 1999 Washington, DC
    1. History Place
  96. Gerald Ford Address to the Nation on Pardoning Richard M. Nixon September 8, 1974 Washington, DC
    1. History Place
    2. Ford Library
  97. Woodrow Wilson “For the League of Nations” September 6, 1919 Des Moines, IA
    1. Speech Transcript
  98. Lyndon B. Johnson Address to Congress after Assuming the Presidency (“Let Us Continue”) November 27, 1963 Washington, DC
    1. The American Experience
    2. Johnson Library
  99. Joseph Welch Defense of Fred Fisher at the Army-McCarthy Hearings (“Have You No Sense of Decency?”) June 9, 1954 Washington, DC
    1. Great Speeches
      (Speech needs to be accessed through Timeline. Go to 1950s and click on link to Joseph McCarthy and Joseph Welch spar during the Army-McCarthy hearings.)
  100. Eleanor Roosevelt “Adoption of the Declaration of Human Rights” December 9, 1948 Paris, France
    1. Speech Transcript
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