6 Speeches That Have Shaped Our World
Words can be the most powerful tool that we possess as human beings.
From the famous rhetoricians of ancient Roman times, to former US President Obama's final State of the Union address in 2016 (remember that mic drop?), words can be deployed to create real change that shapes individual lives and entire nations. They can motivate and energise. They can influence, persuade, move and inspire. They can teach, deliver messages and evoke memories. They can also argue, attack and sometimes even hurt. And, even though they are something that we are all capable of, their full potential is realised and utilised to their greatest extent by those who take the time to learn the artform behind them.
At Speakers Corner, we’re driven to share the wisdom, expertise and stories of the world’s most brilliant minds and amazing people through the power of the spoken word. We’ve heard enough speeches in our time to know that the best ones are not just crammed full of facts and figures, read drowsily from a text-heavy PowerPoint. Rather, the best speeches are often driven by emotion and succeed in communicating important messages in a way that is impactful. Not only are they remembered the next day, they are recalled weeks and even years later, providing real, tangible lessons and ideas that can be taken away and turned into actions that have consequences in everyday lives.
We can see this impact in action all around us. We only need to cast an eye over Instagram during our morning commute to see how much people rely on motivational quotes to brighten their day; or remember how we felt after someone said just the right thing at a time when we really needed some words of encouragement; or consider how the memorable speeches of our leaders – visionaries, politicians and industry experts alike – have altered the course of the world, sometimes without us realising, by changing mindsets, inducing institutional reforms, and enabling new scripts for us to use in our daily interactions.
There are a lot of incredible speakers and speeches out there, and they have all touched us in different ways. In fact, when we asked our team about which famous speeches have had a significant impact on them, it was fascinating to hear the range of answers.
While Adam, our Head of Account Management, reminded us of that epic speech in the film Independence Day...
"We can't be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps its fate that today is the 4th of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom, not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution -- but from annihilation. We're fighting for our right to live, to exist."
... Anna, our Head of Logistics, on the other hand, couldn’t choose just one: “I think the most important speeches are not even speeches at all,” she told us. “I think women having the right to be listened to and to challenge the norm; to speak out about their opinions, wants and needs to their friends, colleagues, relatives and spouses is one of the most important and greatest 'speeches' to have an impact on the world!”
Check out the below for six of some the most well-known speeches:
“If you’re looking for a speech that is important and impactful, Malala Yousafzai’s address to the UN on her 16th birthday certainly ticks both boxes,” says Matt, one of our event logistics coordinators. “Her message was so important and was amplified by the context in which she spoke – discussing education, poverty and terrorism just months after being shot on her way home from school for standing by her beliefs. Incredible bravery.”
An excerpt, courtesy of the BBC:
“The terrorists thought that they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life, except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.”
Serving as the 44th President of the United States from 2009 to 2017, Barack Obama has produced a range of outstanding speeches in his time.
Courtesy of Medium:
“The truth is, being an American is hard. Being part of a democratic government is hard. Being a citizen is hard. It is a challenge. It’s supposed to be. There’s no respite from our ideals.” December 15, 2015: Naturalization Ceremony at the National Archives Sarada Peri, Senior Presidential Speechwriter, serving since 2014
For Lizzie, in marketing, JK Rowling hit a cord with her speech on ‘The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination’.
“So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged.”
“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” – one of his most famous lines, Muhammad Ali churned out some powerful speeches in his time, but not just on the topic of boxing and winning. Active on the civil rights front, one of his famous speeches covered why he refused to fight in the Vietnam War.
Courtesy of The Atlantic:
"My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America... Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.”
Somewhat topical, with the recent release of the film Darkest Hour, Winston Churchill speeches to rally the nation during the war left an indelible mark on our history. "He was an incredible character and leader," says our Event Logistics Coordinator Helena. "He raised the bar during a really difficult time for the country – people were inspired by him."
Finest Hour (June 18, 1940; House of Commons):
"What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin... Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”
Finally, but certainly not least, our team mentioned Nelson Mandela, especially his speech on education in 2013:
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again. Another inspirational man fighting a cause and against the rules!"
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