American 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.
- Check out our Audiobook Podcast Collection
- Voices of American Presidents
- Vintage Radio Archive
- Malcolm X at Oxford University 1964