THE TOP 100 SPEECHES
is an index to and substantial
database of full text transcriptions of the 100 most significant
American political speeches
of the 20th century, according to a list
compiled by Professors Stephen E. Lucas and Martin J. Medhurst.
Dr. Lucas is Evjue-Bascom Professor in the Humanities and
Professor of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin at
Madison. Dr. Medhurst (1952-2021)
Distinguished Professor of Rhetoric and Communication at Baylor
leading scholars of
American public address were asked to recommend speeches on the
basis of social and political impact, and rhetorical artistry.
"We dare not forget today that we are the
heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place,
to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of
Americans -- born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and
bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, and unwilling to witness or permit
the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been
committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world."
"This is preeminently the time to speak the
truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we
shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today.
This great Nation will endure, as it has endured, will
revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my
firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear
itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which
paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."
"It was one hundred and forty-four years ago that members of
the Democratic Party first met in convention to select a Presidential candidate.
Since that time, Democrats have continued to convene once every four years and
draft a party platform and nominate a Presidential candidate. And our meeting
this week is a continuation of that tradition. But there is something different
about tonight. There is something special about tonight. What is different? What
"The Democratic Party -- which is the best hope for
redirecting our nation on a more humane, just, and peaceful course."
"This is not a perfect party. We are not
a perfect people. Yet, we are called to a perfect mission.
Our mission: to feed the hungry; to clothe the naked; to
house the homeless; to teach the illiterate; to provide jobs
for the jobless; and to choose the human race over the
"Now, the usual political thing to do when
charges are made against you is to either ignore them or to deny them without
giving details. I believe we've had enough of that in the United States,
particularly with the present Administration in Washington, D.C. To me the
office of the Vice Presidency of the United States is a great office, and I feel
that the people have got to have confidence in the integrity of the men who run
for that office and who might obtain it."
"I have a theory, too,
that the best and only answer to a smear or to an honest
misunderstanding of the facts is to tell the truth. And
that's why I'm here tonight. I want to tell you my side of
"We've grown used to wonders in this
century. It's hard to dazzle us. But for twenty-five years the United States
space program has been doing just that. We've grown used to the idea of space,
and, perhaps we forget that we've only just begun. We're still pioneers. They,
the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers."
"And I want to say
something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching
the live coverage of the shuttle's take-off. I know it's
hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this
happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and
discovery. It's all part of taking a chance and expanding
man's horizons. The future doesn't belong to the
"If there is one message that echoes forth
from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s
rights are human rights once and for all. Let us not forget that among those
rights are the right to speak freely -- and the right to be heard."
"Women must enjoy the
rights to participate fully in the social and political
lives of their countries, if we want freedom and democracy
to thrive and endure."
"In the world that awaits you, beyond
the shores of Waban -- Lake Waban, no one can say what your true colors will be.
But this I do know: You have a first class education from a first class school.
And so you need not, probably cannot, live a "paint-by-numbers" life. Decisions
are not irrevocable. Choices do come back. And as you set off from Wellesley, I
hope that many of you will consider making three very special choices.
The first is to believe
in something larger than yourself, to get involved in some
of the big ideas of our time."
stand on this rostrum with a sense of deep humility and great pride -- humility
in the wake of those great American architects of our history who have stood
here before me; pride in the reflection that this forum of legislative debate
represents human liberty in the purest form yet devised. Here are centered the
hopes and aspirations and faith of the entire human race."
"I do not stand here as
advocate for any partisan cause, for the issues are fundamental and reach quite
beyond the realm of partisan consideration. They must be resolved on the highest
plane of national interest"
"To be indifferent to...suffering is
what makes the human being inhuman. Indifference, after all, is more dangerous
than anger and hatred. Anger can at times be creative. One writes a great poem,
a great symphony. One does something special for the sake of humanity because
one is angry at the injustice that one witnesses. But indifference is never
creative. Even hatred at times may elicit a response. You fight it. You denounce
it. You disarm it."
"Indifference elicits no
response. Indifference is not a response. Indifference is
not a beginning; it is an end. And, therefore, indifference
is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the
aggressor -- never his victim, whose pain is magnified when
he or she feels forgotten."
"The long and meticulous study and debate of
which this Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the product means that it
reflects the composite views of the many men and governments who have
contributed to its formulation."
"Not every man nor every government can have what
he wants in a document of this kind. There are of course particular provisions
in the Declaration before us with which we are not fully satisfied. I have no
doubt this is true of other delegations, and it would still be true if we
continued our labors over many years."
"Taken as a whole the Delegation of the
United States believes that this is a good document -- even a great document --
and we propose to give it our full support."
"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.
Buenas noches, mis amigos. I'm delighted to be here with you this evening,
because after listening to George Bush all these years, I figured you needed to
know what a real Texas accent sounds like."
"Twelve years ago
Barbara Jordan, another Texas woman, Barbara made
the keynote address
to this convention, and two women in a hundred and sixty
years is about par for the course."
"But if you give us a
chance, we can perform. After all, Ginger Rogers did
everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards
and in high heels."