If a man wishes to become a great orator, he must first become a student of the great orators who have come before him. He must immerse himself in
their texts, listening for the turns of phrases and textual symmetries, the pauses and crescendos, the metaphors and melodies that have enabled the
greatest speeches to stand the test of time.
These speeches lifted hearts in dark times, gave hope in despair, refined the characters of men, inspired brave feats, gave courage to the weary,
honored the dead, and changed the course of history.
I challenge you to attempt a program of study in which you read the entirety of one of these great speeches each and every day.
Great oratory has three components: style, substance, and impact.
: A great speech must be masterfully constructed. The best orators are masters of both the written and spoken word, and use words to
create texts that are beautiful to both hear and read.
: A speech may be flowery and charismatically presented, and yet lack any true substance at all. Great oratory must center on a worthy
theme; it must appeal to and inspire the audience’s finest values and ideals.
: Great oratory always seeks to persuade the audience of some fact or idea. The very best speeches change hearts and minds and seem as
revelatory several decades or centuries removed as when they were first given.
So, who else could i start with (as a brit) than Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill, one of the greatest orators of the 20th century, was interestingly enough, like Demosthenes and other great orators before him,
born with a speech impediment which he worked on until it no longer hindered him. One would never guess this from hearing Churchill’s strong and
reassuring voice, a voice that would buoy up Britain during some of her darkest hours.
“We Shall Fight on the Beaches”
June 4, 1940; House of Commons, London
During the Battle of France, Allied Forces became cut off from troops south of the German penetration and perilously trapped at the Dunkirk
bridgehead. On May 26, a wholesale evacuation of these troops, dubbed “Operation Dynamo,” began. The evacuation was an amazing effort-the RAF kept
the Luftwaffe at bay while thousands of ships, from military destroyers to small fishing boats, were used to ferry 338,000 French and British troops
to safety, far more than anyone had thought possible. On June 4, Churchill spoke before the House of Commons, giving a report which celebrated the
“miraculous deliverance” at Dunkirk, while also seeking to temper a too rosy of view of what was on the whole a “colossal military
"I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being
made, we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our Island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if
necessary for years, if necessary alone. At any rate, that is what we are going to try to do. That is the resolve of His Majesty’s Government-every
man of them. That is the will of Parliament and the nation. The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their
need, will defend to the death their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength. Even though large tracts of
Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not
flag or fail. 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, and even if, which I do not for a
moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British
Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the
liberation of the old."
“Their Finest Hour”
June 18, 1940; House of Commons, London
On May 10, 1940, the Germans began their invasion of France. On June 14 Paris fell. In a matter of days, France would surrender and England would
stand as Europe’s lone bulwark against the twin evils of Fascism and Nazism. At this critical moment, Churchill gave his third and final speech
during the Battle of France, once again imparting words meant to bring hope in this dark hour.
"What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the
survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury
and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. 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.’"
“Blood, Sweat, and Tears”
May 13, 1940; House of Commons, London
Winston Churchill’s first speech to the House of Commons as Britain’s new Prime Minister got off to an auspicious start. His welcome to that
assembly was quite tepid, while outgoing PM Neville Chamberlain was enthusiastically applauded (the world did not yet know just how disastrous his
appeasement policies would prove and did not trust Churchill). But Churchill’s first speech, the first of three powerful oratories he gave during
the Battle of France, would prove that England was in more than capable hands. A seemingly unstoppable Hitler was advancing rapidly across Europe, and
Churchill wasted no time in calling his people to arms. While TR had actually been the first to utter the phrase, “blood, sweat and tears,” it was
Churchill’s use of these words that would leave an inedible and inspiring impression upon the world’s mind.
"I say to the House as I said to ministers who have joined this government, I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat. We have
before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many months of struggle and suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I say it is
to wage war by land, sea, and air. War with all our might and with all the strength God has given us, and to wage war against a monstrous tyranny
never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is
victory. Victory at all costs – Victory in spite of all terrors – Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no
[edit on 05/08/2009 by LiveForever8]