Speeches

March 23, 1775

Patrick Henry: Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death

The speech ending with one of the most famous lines in American history, “give me liberty or give me death,” was Patrick Henry's attempt to persuade the Virginia House of Burgesses, meeting at St. John’s church in Richmond, to pass his resolutions favoring Virginia joining the American Revolutionary War.

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George Washington
September 19, 1796

George Washington: Farewell Address

President George Washington’s Farewell Address ranks high among America’s greatest speeches. Ironically, it was never delivered in the ordinary sense; rather it was published as an open letter to his country September 19, 1796 in Philadelphia’s American Daily Advertiser, and subsequently in many of the nation’s other newspapers and periodicals.

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Frederick Douglass
November 4, 1841

Frederick Douglass: The Church and Prejudice

Frederick Douglass was a former slave who became one of the greatest American anti-slavery and civil rights leaders of nineteenth century. His The Church and Prejudice lecture was one of his first major anti-slavery oratorie.

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July 19, 1848

Elizabeth Cady Stanton: Seneca Falls Keynote Address

Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s keynote address at the Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention was the opening shot of the women’s rights movement. In it she demanded freedom and political representation for women, including the right to own property and the right to vote.

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Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

Abraham Lincoln: Gettysburg Address

Beginning with the famous words “four score and seven years ago,” the Gettysburg Address is the most celebrated speech given by President Abraham Lincoln.

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William Jennings Bryan
August 8, 1900

William Jennings Bryan: Imperialism

William Jennings Bryan’s acceptance speech at the 1900 Democratic Party’s presidential nomination was an eloquent condemnation of imperialism in the Philippines. While anti-imperialism emerged as the party’s leading cause that year, the issue resonated poorly with the public, and he lost by 861,757 votes to incumbent President William McKinley.

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April 15, 1906

Theodore Roosevelt: The Man with the Muck-Rake

In his The Man with the Muck-Rake speech, President Theodore Roosevelt denounced the “muckrakers” he believed were smearing and slandering honest men. The muckrakers were the purveyors of “yellow journalism” that published sensationalized investigative stories meant sell newspapers, but which were often exaggerated and not entirely based in fact.

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Woodrow Wilson
April 2, 1917

Woodrow Wilson: War Message

President Woodrow Wilson’s War Message warned Congress and the nation that diplomatic relations with Germany were severed, and meticulously outlined his reasons why war should be declared. Additionally he called for a league of nations, which Wilson called a “league of honor,” and suggested the United States must make the world “safe for democracy.”

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Franklin D. Roosevelt
March 4, 1933

Franklin D. Roosevelt: First Inaugural Address

On March 4, 1933, from the East Portico of the United States Capitol, and in the midst of devastating national and worldwide economic disaster, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his inaugural address declaring “war” on the Great Depression.

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March 12, 1947

Harry S. Truman: The Truman Doctrine

The Truman Doctrine proclaimed the United States would support Greece and Turkey economically and militarily to prevent their falling under the control of the Soviet Union, and was part of a containment policy that also included the Marshall Plan.

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Douglas MacArthur
April 19, 1951

Douglas MacArthur: Farewell Address

This is the “old soldiers never die; they just fade away” speech given at the end of General Douglas MacArthur’s military career. It was delivered April 19, 1951 before a joint session of Congress.

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Richard M. Nixon
September 23, 1952

Richard M. Nixon: Checkers Speech

Richard M. Nixon, vice presidential running mate with Dwight D. Eisenhower, delivered the Checkers Speech in response to accusations he accepted $18,000 in illegal campaign contributions and amid suggestions that Eisenhower remove him from the ticket.

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January 17, 1961

Dwight D. Eisenhower: Farewell Address

After eight years in the White House, preceded by a nearly 40-year military career, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, also known by the nickname Ike, delivered his Farewell Address via television from the Oval Office January 17, 1961, three days before he left office.

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January 20, 1961

John F. Kennedy: Inaugural Address

President John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address was short, only 1364 words and 14 minutes to deliver (the fourth-shortest inaugural address), but it is considered among the greatest presidential inaugurals. It announced the dawn of a new era as young Americans born in the 20th century first assumed leadership of the nation.

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Martin Luther King
August 28, 1963

Martin Luther King: I Have a Dream

Arguably the most memorable and inspiring oratory in American civil rights history, the I Have a Dream speech was a powerful statement of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s desire for better relations between and among individuals of all races.

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Lyndon B. Johnson
March 15, 1965

Lyndon B. Johnson: Voting Rights Act Address

Considered one of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s most eloquent speeches, his Voting Rights Act address was given one week after deadly racial violence erupted in Selma, Alabama. In it he uses the phrase “we shall overcome,” borrowed from the civil rights movement.

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July 16, 1984

Mario Cuomo: A Tale of Two Cities

Some had remarked that Governor Mario Cuomo of New York could speak better than he could govern, but his powerful keynote address at the 1984 Democratic National Convention resonated in the national consciousness, at least for a time. “This nation is more a tale of two cities than it is just a shining city on a hill,” he insistently said in response to President Ronald Reagan’s description of America.

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Ronald Reagan
June 12, 1987

Ronald Reagan: Brandenburg Gate Speech

President Ronald Reagan’s “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” address, usually titled the Brandenburg Gate Speech, was delivered to the people of West Berlin, but it was audible on the east side of the Berlin wall.

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November 4, 2008

John McCain: 2008 Presidential Election Concession Speech

In an eloquent speech, John McCain conceded loss of the 2008 presidential election to then Senator Barack Obama telling a crowd of supporters, “the failure is mine, not yours.” In the concession speech he acknowledged that, in terms of historical progress, his loss was America’s win. It was delivered election night November 4, 2008 at the Arizona Biltmore hotel in Phoenix.

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Barack Obama
January 20, 2009

Barack Obama: First Inaugural Address

A central theme of President Barack Obama’s first Inaugural Address was a call for a “new era of responsibility” both in terms of accountability in Washington and the responsibility of ordinary people to get involved. It was delivered January 20, 2009 at the West Front of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.

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Donald J. Trump
January 20, 2017

Donald J. Trump: Inaugural Address

President Donald Trump’s Inaugural Address offered a populist vision for a better future, but his opponents in the contentious election referred to it as dark and too political. He concluded with his famous slogan, “we will make America great again.” The 16-minute, 1,433-word speech was the shortest inaugural address since Jimmy Carter’s in 1977.

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