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10 Famous Speeches That Shaped History

These powerful speeches continue to linger in the public imagination.

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  • Photo Credit: Wikipedia

“Ain’t I a Woman?”

Sojourner Truth, 1851

“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman?”

“When They Go Low, We Go High”

Michelle Obama, 2016

“Our motto is: when they go low, we go high. With every word we utter, with every action we take, we know our kids are watching us. We as parents are their most important role models. Let me tell you, Barack and I take that same approach to our jobs as President and First Lady because we know that our words and actions matter, not just to our girls but the children across this country.”

"I Have a Dream"

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 1963

"I have a dream that my four 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."

The Farewell Address

George Washington, 1796

"However [political factions] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government..."

"Tear down this wall!"

Ronald Reagan, 1987

“General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

"I Am Prepared to Die"

Nelson Mandela, 1964

"I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Address to The United Nations On the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Eleanor Roosevelt, 1948

“At a time when there are so many issues on which we find it difficult to reach a common basis of agreement, it is a significant fact that 58 states have found such a large measure of agreement in the complex field of human rights. This must be taken as testimony of our common aspiration...to lift men everywhere to a higher standard of life and to a greater enjoyment of freedom. Man’s desire for peace lies behind this Declaration.”

Inaugural Address

John F. Kennedy, 1961

"And so, my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: Ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."

"We Shall Fight On The Beaches"

Winston Churchill, 1940

“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender...”

Democratic National Convention Keynote Address

Barack Obama, 2004

"Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us...Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America. There's not a Black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America."