History's Greatest Speeches
S 2018


History’s Greatest Speeches


“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal”. When Abraham Lincoln said these words at Gettysburg, Virginia on a cold November day in 1863, the introduction to his Gettysburg Address, he had no way of knowing that his speech would define an entire period of American history forever. Defining a nation’s struggle for equality, democracy and unity.

There is nothing that can capture the mood, feeling, and excitement you get from a great speech. With this in mind the speeches that we will discuss in this S/DG represent centuries of oration as well as the most fascinating and important moments in history. From Pericles’s “Funeral Oration” during the Peloponnesian War to Winston Churchill’s declaration that “We Shall Fight Them on the Beaches” at the beginning of World War II, some of the speeches we will be discussing show how leaders of great nations inspired their countrymen during the darkest days of battle. Through the speeches and words of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Obama will illustrate how some of history’s most courageous activists spoke truth to power in their efforts to remake the world.

Our core book is “Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History” edited by William Safire. Each week two speeches will be selected and analyzed from the 200 speeches in the core book. The speech or part of the speech will be read in class. The historical and political background for making the speech will also be discussed.

We will discuss why these great speeches affected people in critical times in history. You should also enjoy reading the great speeches in class and discussing how the speech affected you. This should be an exciting S/DG discussing history from Pericles Greece to the present through the uses of great speeches. If you are tired of present day politicians not being able to solve our problems then find out, by taking this S/DG, how great men of the past addressed their problems.

Weekly Topics

  1. Introduction

  2. Memorials and Patriotic Speeches

  3. War and Revolution Speeches

  4. Tributes and Eulogies

  5. Debates and Argumentation

  6. Trials

  7. Gallows and Farewell Speeches

  8. Sermons

  9. Inspirational Speeches

  10. Lectures and Instructive Speeches

  11. Speeches of Social Responsibility

  12. Media Speeches

  13. Political Speeches

  14. Commencement Speeches


Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History, William Safire, 2014