Speech of the Century – Vote Here

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Inauguration of Lyndon B Johnson- Photograph

Speeches in History

Last week saw the death, at the age of 82, of Ted Sorensen, one of John F. Kennedy’s key associates. It was Sorensen who drafted Kennedy’s landmark ‘Ask not what your country can do for you’ speech, delivered at the new President’s inauguration in Washington, January 1961. Tom Griffin, the University of Glamorgan’s media spokesperson, reflects here on Sorensen and his achievement.

Kennedy’s ‘Ask not’ speech was certainly memorable, but how does it rank alongside other great speeches of the modern era? Have a look at (or listen to) some of the other contenders at the Guardian’s ‘Great Speeches’ mini-site and vote for your favourite. Comments – and alternative suggestions – can be entered below.
Our poll closes at midnight on November 18th

Chris Evans

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6 Responses to Speech of the Century – Vote Here

  1. Brian says:

    I voted for Dr King’s speech, which is inspirational. In a different context, Lincoln’s ‘Gettysburg Address’ is probably the most respected presidential speech. In more recent times, Colonel Tim Collins’ ‘Eve of Battle’ speech deserves a mention.

  2. Jane says:

    Thanks Brian. For more on the occasions you’ve mentioned, the Times has the full text of Tim Collins’ speech, and there’s a good exhibition on the Gettysburg Address at the Library of Congress site.

  3. James says:

    I voted for Dr King!

    I believe the best Presidential speech is by President Whitmore, on Independence Day. Shame it’s fictitious….

  4. Tom Griffin says:

    Like Brian, I voted for Dr King. But my civil rights speech of choice isn’t “I Have a Dream.” It’s President Johnson on 15 March 1965, speaking to Congress after the Selma violence. A wonderfully powerful combination of lofty oratory and pure Johnsonesque plain-speaking.

    “At times, history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama. There, long suffering men and women peacefully protested the denial of their rights as Americans. Many of them were brutally assaulted. One good man–a man of God–was killed.

    “There is no cause for pride in what has happened in Selma. There is no cause for self-satisfaction in the long denial of equal rights of millions of Americans. But there is cause for hope and for faith in our Democracy in what is happening here tonight. For the cries of pain and the hymns and protests of oppressed people have summoned into convocation all the majesty of this great government–the government of the greatest nation on earth.”

    In places the language isn’t sophisticated. But as a political speech it is immensely powerful. Even more so, I think, than JFK’s inaugural.

  5. derek thomas says:

    Although there were many noted speeches in your recent poll. There was one speech that was a surprising omission. The speech in question was Aneurin Bevan’s NHS House of Commons speech on 9th February 1948. The speech may have not been one of Bevans most famous. But it was remarkable in the context that it give the date of the birth of the most famous creation of post war Britain the NHS.

  6. Jane says:

    Thanks Derek.
    Bevan could have had a poll all to himself. There’s a nice snapshot of immediate reactions to his performance on 9th February 1948 in the Guardian’s From the Archives section: http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2009/feb/10/

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