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From the PublisherHow many of you remember the agony of having to memorize theGettysburg Address in school? Or perhaps it was something by one ofthe founding father? "Who needs this stuff?" you would moan."What's the point?"
The major problem with historic orations, students have alwayscomplained, is that they are dry. American Heritage, one of theforemost magazine about this nation's culture, has collected aneclectic set of speeches given not only by politicians, but also bypeople in many walks of life, from sports figures to "ordinary"people in extraordinary circumstances.
The Book of Great American Speeches for Young People contains over100 discourses on a myriad of topics. Some classics can be foundwithin, such as Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream andFranklin Delano Roosevelt's address after the bombing of PearlHarbor on December 7, 1941, "a date which will live in infamy." Ona lighter political note, there's the "Checker's Speech," in whichRichard Nixon swore that the only gift he received during 1952campaign was a little cocker spaniel and that "we're gonna keephim."
Other orators in The Book of Great American Speeches for YoungPeople include Malcolm X, Langston Hughes, John F. Kennedy,Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Mark Twain, just to name a few. Speechesare 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 wasfounded on free speech, there are also numerous discourses ofprotest and dissent.
The less earthshaking fare, though no less dramatic, is also here.Lou Gehrig paid an emotional farewell to baseball, in which, thoughstricken with the terminal illness that would one day bear hisname, he considered himself "the luckiest man on the face of theearth."
One of the more poignant speeches, to which young readers willrelate, was given by 10-year old Samantha Smith in 1983 to theChildren's Symposium on the Year 2001, after her impassioned letterto Soviet Premier Yuri Adropov made world news. The letter statedher fears nuclear war between his country and American, provingthat young people can make that difference.
In addition to its generous collection, The Book of Great AmericanSpeeches for Young People encourages readers to speak out for whatthey believe in. Its concluding chapter on how (and why) to make aneffective speech will give the reader a boost of confidence and askill which will prove useful long after school days are over.(BookPage, October 2001)
Gr7 Up—A useful compendium of more than 100 speeches that spannearly 400 years of American history, from Powhatan (1609) toSenator Charles Robb (2000). Prominent orators include PatrickHenry, Thomas Jefferson, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Martin LutherKing Jr., and Malcolm X. Two indexes allow readers to find aselection by its speaker or its theme. Black-and-white photos andreproductions accompany many of the entries. Alongside the FoundingFathers and patriots are athletes, authors, and media celebrities.The speeches inform readers and provide examples of how the spokenword has affected Americans throughout our past. —David M.Alperstein, Queens Borough Public Library, NY (School LibraryJournal, December 2001)