from History’s Great Speakers
makes a great speaker great?
are several ways to analyze this - What is their ability to
connect with their audience? Do they use their words and body
language to show their authenticity? Are they able to influence
or change people's perspective on an issue? All of these components
are the mark of a good orator. Yet the true test of greatness
comes down to a single quality that all great speakers and leaders
share -- they are able to shape their world and make it a better
place for future generations.
are links to five of the greatest speeches of the 20th Century
and some commentary from "Words That Shook The World"
on what makes them, and their speakers, so extraordinarily compelling.
have a dream…"
delivered at the March on Washington Jobs and Freedom, August
28, 1963 (click to view speech).
speech is perfect in every way. The use of language, the emotional
build-up, the penetrating message and the flawless delivery
are plain and simple, perfection. It’s all the more amazing
when you discover that King disregarded his prepared remarks
and spoke largely extemporaneously, which only demonstrates
that great speeches come from the heart, not just the pen.
Speech – What to Look for: This is a veritable
symphony in words. While staying true to his hard-hitting message
to the world, the seventy concrete visual images that brought
every paragraph to life; the rhythm of his phrasing and the
flawless establishment of memorable themes lift the audience
to a climax that is probably unmatched.
Delivery – What to Listen for: Here is a 100-percent
commitment to the words, the emotion and the spirit underneath
the words. You feel Dr. King in every syllable, in every richly
voiced sound, in every perfectly timed pause and ever perfectly
enunciated variation. He owns every millisecond of the speech
and it comes not from his head, but from his heart and soul.
Person – Qualities of Greatness: His unequivocal
commitment to nonviolent change in the face of great pressure,
his intellect, integrity, passion and his extraordinary gift
for words allowed all people, black and white, to be moved by
the wisdom of his message.
bin ein Berliner"
delivered in the Rudolph-Wilde-Platz, Berlin Wall, June 26,
1963 (click to view speech).
all of his speeches, however, John F. Kennedy’s provocative
address to over one million people at the Rudolf Wilde Platz
in West Berlin on June 26, 1963 was perhaps his most emotional.
Spoken to the largest live audience of his career, Kennedy,
in an almost spine-tingling way, worked the huge crowd with
his timeless themes of freedom.
Speech – What to Look for: Playing the two themes
– “Ich bin ein Berliner” and “Let them
come to Berlin ” – throughout the speech like a
hypnotic mantra induced a euphoria in the huge and adoring crowd.
Short in length but strong on emotion and pointed in its attack,
this speech did what it was supposed to do: Boost the morale
of the German people when they needed it most.
Delivery – What to Listen for: JFK was at his
most emotionally ebullient. He allowed the emotion of the crowd
to fill him and drive him. You can hear it in his cadence and
in how much “fun” he was having as he becomes a
cheerleader for a million adoring fans.
Person – Qualities of Greatness: The compelling
combination of grace, vision, integrity and of course, youth
and style, make JFK – as well as his speeches –
something rare and special.
blood, toil, tears and sweat."
to the House of Commons, May 13, 1940 (click to hear speech)
three days after the invasion of Holland forced Neville Chamberlain
to resign, Winston Churchill is given command of the country
and the war effort. Some say that this was the moment Churchill
had been preparing for all his life. His take-charge attitude
in this speech seems to confirm that assessment. Even today,
you can feel the sense of purpose and confidence he conveys
throughout this amazing address.
The Speech – What to Look for: The precision
and poetry of the words lead the listener to an inescapable
and rousing conclusion. His total commitment of his “blood,
toil, tears and sweat” is evident in every sentence and
the question-answer technique rivets the audience to his ideas.
Delivery – What to Listen for: Long, purposeful
pauses, great vocal variation and deep resonant tones communicate
gravitas and certitude and force us to listen and give weight
to every word.
Person – Qualities of Greatness: Passion, intelligence,
conviction and certainty of purpose demonstrated consistently
over a lifetime of accomplishment.
here to listen to Winston Churchill's "blood, toil,
tears and sweat" speech.
they… 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the
face of God.'"
to the Nation, on the Challenger Disaster, January 28, 1986
(click to view speech).
speech is brilliant, despite its painful message, because in
it, Ronald Reagan is Ronald Reagan. He is warm, personal, eloquent,
uplifting and optimistic even in tragedy and talks in big, inspiring
themes. Simply put, in this short speech Reagan sets the standard
for how a leader, a real leader shows strength and compassion
in the face of disaster.
Speech – What to Look for: See the way in which
the President used his personality and simple words to make
the country feel better – even proud – in a moment
of national disaster, and, of course, how the speech and the
event were transformed by one brilliant, closing phrase.
Delivery – What to Listen for: As always with
“The Great Communicator,” notice the warmth and
silky richness of his voice, the perfect pacing and the personal,
conversational way in which he speaks that makes every listener
feel that they are right there in the Oval Office with him.
Person – Qualities of Greatness: An “Everyman”
to whom we could all relate, but one with masterful communication
skills, passion, vision and an infectious, palpable love for
his principles and his country.
faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total."
(click to hear speech)
Statement to the House Judiciary Committee Proceedings on the
Impeachment of Richard Nixon, (these words
will be linked to audio snippet of speech) July 25, 1974
the words in this speech are powerful, this is one of those
speeches that you have to listen to in order to feel its full
impact. Barbara Jordan knew how to use the cadence and inflection
of her voice to impress and even hypnotize her audience.
Speech – What to Look for: To make what in essence
is one long legal argument flow like poetry and sing like a
song is almost impossible. The understatement, the precision,
the sarcasm and the eloquence of her words are stunning.
Delivery – What to Listen for: No voice, male
or female, has ever generated more authority and gravitas. Jordan
knows how to use this gift – the perfect pauses command
respect, the building force and energy command attention and
the vocal variation plays the room like a Stradivarius.
Person – Qualities of Greatness: A courageous
pioneer. A black woman from the South, she succeeded by being
better than white men she confronted at every step of her career.
In doing so, she achieved more firsts for blacks and women than
just about anyone else in history.