8 influential speeches that changed the world

Napoleon Bonaparte -- 'Farewell to the Old Guard'

After suffering several setbacks in the Napoleonic Wars, Napoleon was forced to abdicate his throne on April 6, 1814.

At the time of the abdication, he gave a speech praising his faithful soldiers and generals who had stuck by him:

Soldiers of my Old Guard: I bid you farewell. For twenty years I have constantly accompanied you on the road to honour and glory.

In these latter times, as in the days of our prosperity, you have invariably been models of courage and fidelity.

With men such as you our cause could not be lost; but the war would have been interminable; it would have been civil war, and that would have entailed deeper misfortunes on France.

I have sacrificed all of my interests to those of the country.

Source: Speeches That Changed The World

Georges Jacques Danton -- 'Dare, Dare Again, Always Dare'

Given during the tumult of the French Revolution, Danton urged his fellow French citizens to mobilize in order to push back the invading Prussian forces.

The speech was inspiring, but also chilling, as Danton pushed for those not supporting the war efforts to be put to death:

At such a moment this National Assembly becomes a veritable committee of war. We ask that you concur with us in directing this sublime movement of the people, by naming commissioners who will second us in these great measures.

We ask that any one refusing to give personal service or to furnish arms shall be punished with death. We ask that a set of instructions be drawn up for the citizens to direct their movements.

We ask that couriers be sent to all the departments to notify them of the decrees that you proclaim here. The tocsin we are about to ring is not an alarm signal; it sounds the charge on the enemies of our country.

To conquer them we must dare, dare again, always dare, and France is saved!

Source: Speeches That Changed The World

Giuseppe Garibaldi -- Speech to his Soldiers

In the mid 19th century, Giuseppe Garibaldi led a military movement to liberate the various Italian kingdoms from Austrian rule and create a unified modern nation of Italy.

Garibaldi gave this speech in 1860 to rally his troops for further action to unify the nation:

To arms, then, all of you! all of you! And the oppressors and the mighty shall disappear like dust.

You, too, women, cast away all the cowards from your embraces; they will give you only cowards for children, and you who are the daughters of the land of beauty must bear children who are noble and brave.

Let timid doctrinaires depart from among us to carry their servility and their miserable fears elsewhere. This people is its own master.

It wishes to be the brother of other peoples, but to look on the insolent with a proud glance, not to grovel before them imploring its own freedom.

It will no longer follow in the trail of men whose hearts are foul. No! No! No!

Source: Speeches That Changed The World

Patrick Henry -- 'Liberty or Death'

On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry stood and delivered a riveting speech to the Constitutional Congress in Richmond, Virginia. The speech had the impact of causing a resolution to narrowly pass the Congress that led to Virginia joining the American Revolution:

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, 'Peace! Peace!' -- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun!

The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms!

Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God!

I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!

Source: Speeches That Changed The World

Abraham Lincoln -- 'The Gettysburg Address'


Delivered on November 19, 1863, the address was delivered at the Gettysburg cemetery. The speech was given at a ceremony dedicating the cemetery as the National Cemetery:

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.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

We are met on a great battlefield of that war.

We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.

It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

Source: Speeches That Changed The World

Winston Churchill -- 'Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat'

Upon first entering the British House of Commons as the Prime Minister, Churchill gave a speech rallying the country to war against Nazi Germany.

Delivered on May 13, 1940, the speech was a call-to-arms aimed at uniting the British public against the threat of the Nazis:

I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined the 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 long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; 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: victory; victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.

Source: Speeches That Changed The World

John F. Kennedy -- Inaugural Address

Martin Luther King Jr -- 'I Have a Dream'

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