July 1, 2009

Ten Famous Speeches in American History

Listen to ten of the most famous historical speeches in American history. For the past many years we’ve featured hundreds of free audio & video resources as part of our Free Resource of the Day Emails. From these emails, we’ve picked ten of the most enduring free speeches from America’s founding to the Civil War, World War II, and on through to the present era. With this collection, you can listen to audio performances from early luminaries such as George Washington, Daniel Webster, and Abraham Lincoln, and hear archival recordings of speeches delivered by John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Dwight D. Eisenhower. We also devote special attention to social leaders such as Susan B. Anthony and, of course, Martin Luther King, Jr. We hope this top ten list provides a useful overview of the world-defining rhetoric that has helped define each part of the American story. You can check them all out by clicking the links below:

1. Gettysburg Address

For our first speech, we thought it fitting to feature Lincoln’s most famous speech delivered at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania during the American Civil War. American Rhetoric offers the speech in four different versions, one narrated by musician Johnny Cash, and the others read by actors Jeff Daniels, Sam Waterson, and Jim Getty. Sam Waterson has portrayed Lincoln on TV and film and delivers the address in how we typically assume Lincoln to sound like. Jim Getty is one of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania’s “most recognized” residents as he often plays the role of Lincoln there, and his reading sounds like a historical reenactment. Johnny Cash strums the guitar on his reading and Jeff Daniels offers the most dramatic reading complete with orchestral accompaniment. The speech is about 2 minutes and 30 seconds and is available on streaming audio from American Rhetoric.

2. I Have a Dream Audio and Video

One of our favorite free titles in our free directory is Martin Luther King, Jr.’s classic “I Have a Dream” speech. Delivered on August 28th, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., King’s passionate call for justice and equality was the battle cry for the civil rights movement in America. Choose from an audio version of the speech from American Rhetoric or a video version from YouTube.

3. Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death” Speech

Download this free inspiring speech delivered by Patrick Henry on the brink of the Revolutionary War. This key speech in American history called forth the Founding Fathers to break the encroaching chains of slavery put on them by the British. It’s a stirring cry for freedom delivered with gusto by narrator Jon Reiss, and it’s available for MP3 download through LearnOutLoud.com.

4. Remarks on the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated during his campaign for president in June of 1968. Two months before his tragic death, on April 4, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy delivered a moving eulogy on the night of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. In the speech he calls for “love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country”. This great 5 minute speech is available on streaming audio and MP3 download from American Rhetoric.

5. D-Day Pre-Invasion Address to Soldiers

Listen to General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s D-Day Pre-Invasion Address delivered on the morning of June 6th, 1944. This short, inspiring message was delivered to 175,000 soldiers of the allied expeditionary force. This speech is available on MP3 download and streaming audio from American Rhetoric.

6. Speech on Women’s Right to Vote

Listen to American civil rights leader Susan B. Anthony’s inspiring speech “On Women’s Right to Vote”. After casting her vote in the 1872 election, Anthony was arrested and brought to trial in the case of the United States v. Susan B. Anthony. She pleaded not guilty and in this famous speech she asserts that voting is her legal right as a United States citizen under the Constitution which promises all people the blessings of liberty. This speech is narrated by Antonia Bath and available exclusively through LearnOutLoud.com on MP3 download.

7. First Inaugural Address of President George Washington

Listen to the First Inaugural Address of President George Washington. In this address Washington reluctantly accepts the call of the American people and humbly stresses his shortcomings in carrying out the role of president. He expresses gratitude for the divine providence that led the United States to independence, and he sets his intention to be a selfless public servant, even asking that he not receive any form of compensation for his duties. This address is available on MP3 download exclusively through LearnOutLoud.com.

8. John F. Kennedy Speeches: The Inaugural Address

The Miller Center of Public Affairs features downloadable audio of the speeches by numerous Presidents in the 20th century. They offer over a dozen John F. Kennedy speeches, including his famous Inaugural Address, his inspiring address at Rice University on the space effort, his Civil Rights Address, and his “Ich bin ein Berliner” Speech which delivered next to the Berlin Wall criticizing communism. All these speeches can be downloaded on MP3.

9. Daniel Webster’s Plymouth Oration

Daniel Webster’s famous Plymouth Oration did much to establish the Pilgrims as the forefathers of America. After this speech delivered in 1820, the journey of the Pilgrims to Plymouth, Massachusetts became the nation’s founding myth, and by 1863 Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day which has been celebrated ever since. This historic speech is available on MP3 download and streaming audio directly through LearnOutLoud.com.

10. I’ve Been to the Mountaintop

On April 4th, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. The night before he was assassinated Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his prophetic “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. In this stirring speech Dr. King looks back on his life and is thankful for all the positive changes in civil rights that occurred in his lifetime, and he is grateful to have lived in the second half of the 20th century when masses of people all over the world were standing up for freedom and human rights. Listen to this speech on streaming audio or download it on MP3 from American Rhetoric.

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