100 Great American Speeches

mlk.jpgAmer­i­can Rhetoric has com­piled its list of the top 100 Amer­i­can speech­es, all of which can be con­ve­nient­ly accessed as mp3 files. Most of the speech­es list­ed here are known for their elo­quence, and many for the piv­otal role they played in effect­ing major polit­i­cal and social change. The com­pi­la­tion lets you lis­ten to F.D.R. lead­ing the US through the Depres­sion ( “There is noth­ing to fear but fear itself” ) as well as through World War II with his Fire­side Chats. Then, there is Tru­man and Kennedy ( “Ich bin ein Berlin­er” ) fight­ing the Cold War, Nixon bol­ster­ing sup­port for the Viet­nam War with his “Great Silent Major­i­ty” speech, and Mar­tin Luther King ( “I Have a Dream” ) and Mal­colm X ( “The Bal­lot or the Bul­let” ) press­ing for civ­il rights in their dif­fer­ent ways.

The speech­es can be heard large­ly in full, and, while most are polit­i­cal in con­tent, some gems are not. Take for exam­ple William Faulkn­er’s Nobel Prize accep­tance speech, Lou Gehrig’s Farewell Address, Ursu­la Le Guin’s “A Left-Hand­ed Com­mence­ment Address,” and Elie Wiesel’s “The Per­ils of Indif­fer­ence.” Give these speech­es some time, and it might be a while before you come back up for air.

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