There have been some fictional speeches by characters like Mark Anthony by Shakespeare who changed the course of history through his monologue. It kept the audience enthralled play after play. But then, real life always beats fiction. There have been great speeches delivered by people throughout history which not only brought about a political/social change, but sowed seed for a new revolution to take over the world. Some of speeches like those of Mahatma Gandhi and Winston Churchill have helped their nations in the dark hours when there was not even a light seen at the end of the tunnel. Here is a list of 10 most inspirational speeches given by famous people, though they are not placed in order. It is not easy to make choice as to which is the best speech ever delivered to inspire people because they have all left a different impact on the world.
1. Steve Jobs speech at Stanford University
I consider the speech delivered by Steve Jobs in 2005, when he was a year into fighting cancer very inspirational, because he talked about his personal experiences which included success, failures, love, relationships, aspirations and even death. His personal reflection is known to have inspired many youngsters.
Famous quote: “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”
2. Nelson Mandela at the trial
‘I am the first accused’ began Nelson Mandela at his trial in 1964 and went on to deliver a very inspirational speech. After being arrested following a tip off from the CIA, Mandela was sentenced to five years in prison in 1962 for inciting people of South Africa against the government. In 1964 he was further accused further for treason, conspiracy, sabotage to overthrow the government.
Famous quote: “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”.
3. I have a dream by Martin Luther King, Jr
Martin Luther King, one of the most prominent black civil- rights leader delivered his famous speech ‘I have a dream’ at Lincoln Memorial on 28th August, 1963. He spoke about equality of men using Christian rhetoric, which held thousands gathered there spellbound. Though he did not live to see it, his dream did come true.
Famous quote: “The difference between a dreamer and a visionary is that a dreamer has his eyes closed and a visionary has his eyes open”
4. John F. Kennedy inaugural speech
The inaugural speech delivered by U.S. President John F. Kennedy on Friday, January 20, 1961, immediately after taking the presidential oath invited the Americans to unite against their common enemies of tyranny, poverty, disease and war. It is just one little proof of his oratory skill.
Famous quote: “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”.
5. Winston Churchill
The speech delivered by Winston Churchill at the House of Commons on 4th June, 1940, soon after he took the post of PM, is considered to be an absolute classic even by his critics. The speech gave hope to the people who were feeling lost by the Nazi onslaught and an impending defeat of neighboring country France. His speech is said to have averted the disaster that would have followed with negotiations with Axis powers which was considered rightful thing to do by many.
Famous quote: ‘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….. ‘
6. Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi has made a huge impact not just on India, but the whole world with not just his speeches and writings, but also with his lifestyle and non-violent ways. One of his most memorable speeches was delivered at the Banaras Hindu University on 4th February, 1916 to elegant audience. His speech is said to have outraged everybody present, including the British, which rightly turned out to be a keynote in Indian struggle for independence.
Famous quote: ‘There is no salvation for India unless you strip yourselves of this jewelry and hold it in trust for your country men.’
7. Swami Vivekananda at Chicago World Congress of Religions
Swami Vivekananda delivered a speech at the Chicago World Congress of Religions on September 11, 1893 which is said to have introduced the true meaning of Hinduism and bridged the gap between the Western and Eastern religious beliefs and spirituality. This also flamed the interest of westerners in Yoga.
Famous quote: ‘I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration but we accept all religions as true’.
8. Abraham Lincoln
No man has made such a huge impact on the devastated audience in just 265 words and speaking for just about 3 minutes. In 1863, he sent a heart rending plea to the nation to pay tribute to the soldiers who laid down their lives fighting for ‘Liberty and equality’, the principles worth dying for.
Famous quote: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
9. Socrates Apology
Speeches have at times failed to achieve its goal at the time, but have left an inedible mark on history and continue to inspire people even today. Such a speech was delivered by Socrates when he was charged by the Athens Jury of ‘corrupting the youth’ and misleading them with his philosophy. He was convicted and had to kill himself but he made the world realize that human knowledge will always be woefully limited.
Famous quote: “The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways — I to die, and you to live. Which is better God only knows.”
10. Speech of Alexander the Great at Hydaspes River, India
Alexander was not satisfied with his conquests even after the fall of Persian Empire. He continued his invasion into India in 326 B.C. when his men lacked enthusiasm to move ahead after 10 years of being away from homes. Alexander then used his oratory talent, learned under guidance of Aristotle to inspire his men to continue fighting and win against many odds.
Famous quote: ” ….whoever wishes to return home will be allowed to go, either with me or without me. I will make those who stay the envy of those who return”.