Words have a way of resonating and reverberating throughout time, defining moments in our culture and writing the first draft of our history.
History is defined by moments and is narrated by our leaders. I wanted to see what some of the most famous speeches ever delivered looked like when they were boiled down to the handful of words that were used the most.
Here are a few famous speeches recreated as word clouds:
Marting Luther King, Jr. – I Have A Dream
“I Have a Dream” is a 17-minute public speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered on August 28, 1963, in which he called for racial equality and an end to discrimination. The speech, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, was a defining moment of the American Civil Rights Movement.
This line says it all:
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt – The Infamy Speech
The Presidential Address to Congress of December 8, 1941 (known as the Infamy Speech or Day of Infamy Speech) was delivered at 12:30 p.m. that day to a Joint Session of Congress by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt, one day after the Empire of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor Naval Base, Hawaii. The name derives from the first line of the speech: Roosevelt describing the previous day as “a date which will live in infamy”.
Within an hour of the speech, Congress passed a formal declaration of war against Japan and officially brought the U.S. into World War II. The address is regarded as one of the most famous American political speeches of the 20th century. Learn more
A powerful line:
With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph, so help us God.
Abraham Lincoln – The Gettysburg Address
The Gettysburg Address … was delivered by Lincoln during the American Civil War, on the afternoon of Thursday, November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, four and a half months after the Union armies defeated those of the Confederacy at the Battle of Gettysburg.
In just over two minutes, Lincoln invoked the principles of human equality espoused by the Declaration of Independence and redefined the Civil War as a struggle not merely for the preservation of the Union sundered by the secession crisis, but as “a new birth of freedom” which in a renewed Union would bring true equality to all of its citizens, ensuring that democracy would remain a viable form of government and creating a nation in which states’ rights were no longer dominant.
I get the chills every time I read this line:
… [W]e here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Winston Churchill – We Shall Fight on the Beaches
In this speech, Churchill had to describe a great military disaster, and warn of a possible Nazi German invasion attempt, without casting doubt on eventual victory. Learn more
Perhaps the most memorable passage:
We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. 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 …
I thought this was also worth sharing:
It is said that as the House of Commons thundered in an uproar at his stirring rhetoric, Churchill muttered in a whispered aside to a colleague, “And we’ll fight them with the butt ends of broken beer bottles because that’s bloody well all we’ve got!”
Chief Joseph – Surrender Speech at Bears Paw Battle
After a devastating five-day battle during freezing weather conditions with no food or blankets, with the major war leaders dead, Joseph formally surrendered to General Nelson Appleton Miles on October 5, 1877 in the Bear Paw Mountains of the Montana Territory, less than 40 miles (60 km) south of Canada in a place close to the present-day Chinook in Blaine County. The battle is remembered in popular history by the words attributed to Joseph at the formal surrender.
Here is the speech in its entirety:
Tell General Howard I know his heart. What he told me before, I have it in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed; Looking Glass is dead, Too-hul-hul-sote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led on the young men is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets; the little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are—perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.
Ronald Reagan – Address to the Nation on the Challenger
On January 28, 1986, millions of Americans, many of them schoolchildren watching from their classroom desks, tuned in to see 7 Americans, including Christa McAuliffe, a 37 year old schoolteacher and the first ever “civilian astronaut,” lift off in the space shuttle Challenger. Just 73 seconds later, the shuttle was consumed in a fireball. All seven aboard perished. These were the first deaths of American astronauts while in flight, and the nation was shocked and heartbroken by the tragedy. Just a few hours after the disaster, President Ronald Reagan took to the radio and airwaves, honoring these “pioneers” and offering comfort and assurance to a rattled people. Source
A line that resonates:
The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave.