From the Publisher
How many of you remember the agony of having to memorize the Gettysburg Address in school? Or perhaps it was something by one of the founding father? "Who needs this stuff?" you would moan. "What's the point?"
The major problem with historic orations, students have always complained, is that they are dry. American Heritage, one of the foremost magazine about this nation's culture, has collected an eclectic set of speeches given not only by politicians, but also by people in many walks of life, from sports figures to "ordinary" people in extraordinary circumstances.
The Book of Great American Speeches for Young People contains over 100 discourses on a myriad of topics. Some classics can be found within, such as Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream and Franklin Delano Roosevelt's address after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, "a date which will live in infamy." On a lighter political note, there's the "Checker's Speech," in which Richard Nixon swore that the only gift he received during 1952 campaign was a little cocker spaniel and that "we're gonna keep him."
Other orators in The Book of Great American Speeches for Young People include Malcolm X, Langston Hughes, John F. Kennedy, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Mark Twain, just to name a few. Speeches are used to influence and encourage, so there are several "declamations" which consider the struggles for women's suffrage, civil right and the evils of slavery. And since the nation was founded on free speech, there are also numerous discourses of protest and dissent.
The less earthshaking fare, though no less dramatic, is also here. Lou Gehrig paid an emotional farewell to baseball, in which, though stricken with the terminal illness that would one day bear his name, he considered himself "the luckiest man on the face of the earth."
One of the more poignant speeches, to which young readers will relate, was given by 10-year old Samantha Smith in 1983 to the Children's Symposium on the Year 2001, after her impassioned letter to Soviet Premier Yuri Adropov made world news. The letter stated her fears nuclear war between his country and American, proving that young people can make that difference.
In addition to its generous collection, The Book of Great American Speeches for Young People encourages readers to speak out for what they believe in. Its concluding chapter on how (and why) to make an effective speech will give the reader a boost of confidence and a skill which will prove useful long after school days are over. (BookPage, October 2001)
Gr7 UpA useful compendium of more than 100 speeches that span nearly 400 years of American history, from Powhatan (1609) to Senator Charles Robb (2000). Prominent orators include Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X. Two indexes allow readers to find a selection by its speaker or its theme. Black-and-white photos and reproductions accompany many of the entries. Alongside the Founding Fathers and patriots are athletes, authors, and media celebrities. The speeches inform readers and provide examples of how the spoken word has affected Americans throughout our past. David M. Alperstein, Queens Borough Public Library, NY (School Library Journal, December 2001)
Over the years, a select group of speeches or orations by a variety of Americans have stood the test of time and retained their power. Some of the more obvious ones are Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and Douglas MacArthur's farewell to Congress. Yet, there are grand words included in sources less familiar than these two examples that are worthy of recall. In this comprehensive source of great American speeches, many different types of addresses are included. For example, themes such as labor history, the civil rights movement and social activism are represented by specific speeches. The words of Native Americans include those of Chiefs Joseph and Seattle. Presidential commentaries by Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan and others provide a cross section of executive opinions. All in all, readers will find that perusing these pages allows them to revisit some of the critical moments in American history through the words of its players. This is a valuable quick reference book and will be enjoyed by students of history. 2001, John Wiley & Sons, $14.95. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Greg M. Romaneck
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-A useful compendium of more than 100 speeches that span nearly 400 years of American history, from Powhatan (1609) to Senator Charles Robb (2000). Prominent orators include Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X. Two indexes allow readers to find a selection by its speaker or its theme. Black-and-white photos and reproductions accompany many of the entries. Alongside the Founding Fathers and patriots are athletes, authors, and media celebrities. The speeches inform readers and provide examples of how the spoken word has affected Americans throughout our past.-David M. Alperstein, Queens Borough Public Library, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Read an Excerpt
The first colonists in Jamestown, Virginia, arrived from England in 1607. Building homes and finding food in the New World was difficult, and those who survived the first winters owed their lives to the help they received from the many tribes of the Powhatan Confederacy. However, the settlers took lands for their own use that the Indians considered theirs, and disputes arose over the trading of food and weapons. Chief Wahunsonacock ( called Powhatan by the colonists) , the father of Pocahontas, warned Captain John Smith against abusing the Indians friendship.
Powhatan, Chief of the Powhatan Confederacy
To Captain John Smith
I am now grown old, and must soon die; and the succession must descend, in order, to my brothers, Opitchapan, Opekankanough, and Catataugh, and then to my two sisters, and their two daughters. I wish their experience was equal to mine; and that your love to us might not be less than ours to you.
Why should you take by force that from us which you can have by love? Why should you destroy us, who have provided you with food? What can you get by war? We can hide our provisions, and fly into the woods; and then you must consequently famish by wronging your friends. What is the cause of your jealousy? You see us unarmed, and willing to supply your wants, if you will come in a friendly manner, and not with swords and guns, as to invade an enemy.
I am not so simple, as not to know it is better to eat good meat, lie well, and sleep quietly with my women and children; to laugh and be merry with the English; and, being their friend, to have copper, hatchets, and whatever else I want, than to fly from all, to lie cold in the woods, feed upon acorns, roots, and such trash, and to be so hunted, that I cannot rest, eat, or sleep. In such circumstances, my men must watch, and if a twig should but break, all would cry out, Here comes Captain Smith ; and so, in this miserable manner, to end my miserable life; and, Captain Smith, this might be soon your fate too, through your rashness and unadvisedness.
I, therefore, exhort you to peaceable councils; and, above all, I insist that the guns and swords, the cause of all our jealousy and uneasiness, be removed and sent away.