Great Speeches of the 20th Century

Great Speeches of the 20th Century

by Bob Blaisdell (Editor)


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Great Speeches of the 20th Century by Bob Blaisdell

A great speech can stir the soul — and move a nation. This compact and affordable anthology gathers complete speeches and selected excerpts from some of the twentieth century's most memorable addresses. Writers and speakers in search of memorable quotations will appreciate this collection, as will any reader seeking historical wisdom and inspiration.
Featured speakers include Winston Churchill, rousing the British to defend their lives and homes against the Nazis; Mohandas Gandhi, advocating non-violent resistance to deplorable living conditions; and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, calming the nation's fears during the Great Depression. Additional orations include those of Barack Obama, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Ronald Reagan, Elie Wiesel, the Dalai Lama, César Chávez, and many others. Includes three selections from the Common Core State Standards Initiative: "Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat: Address to Parliament on May 13th, 1940," "I Have a Dream," and "Remarks to the Senate in Support of a Declaration of Conscience."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486474670
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 02/17/2011
Series: Dover Thrift Editions
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 130,355
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Bob Blaisdell is professor of English at the City University of New York's Kingsborough Community College and the editor of twenty-two Dover literature and poetry collections.

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Great Speeches of the Twentieth Century

By Bob Blaisdell

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2011 Bob Blaisdell
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-47467-0


THEODORE ROOSEVELTThe Natural Wonder of the Grand Canyon ("Leave it as it is. You cannot improve upon it.") Grand Canyon, Arizona Territory May 6, 1903

As president of the United States (1901–1909), Theodore Roosevelt, a lifelong bird-lover and big-game hunter, created parkland in the United States the size of Western Europe. In the following speech, in the midst of his awe and appreciation of the Grand Canyon, the rough-riding hero of San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War of 1898, greets some of his former soldiers who hailed from the area. In 1908, Roosevelt put into law the designation of the Grand Canyon as a National Monument. As noted in the speech, irrigation of the arid southwest was one of his other goals. No American president ever accomplished more for the environment.

Mr. Governor, and you, my fellow citizens:

I am glad to be in Arizona today. From Arizona many gallant men came into the regiment which I had the honor to command. Arizona sent men who won glory on fought fields, and men to whom came a glorious and an honorable death fighting for the flag of their country. As long as I live it will be to me an inspiration to have served with Bucky O'Neill. I have met so many comrades whom I prize, for whom I feel respect and admiration and affection, that I shall not particularize among them except to say that there is none for whom I feel all of respect and admiration and affection more than for your Governor.

I have never been in Arizona before. It is one of the regions from which I expect most development through the wise action of the National Congress in passing the irrigation act. The first and biggest experiment now in view under that act is the one that we are trying in Arizona. I look forward to the effects of irrigation partly as applied by and through the government, still more as applied by individuals, and especially by associations of individuals, profiting by the example of the government, and possibly by help from it—I look forward to the effects of irrigation as being of greater consequence to all this region of country in the next fifty years than any other material movement whatsoever.

In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which, so far as I know, is, in kind, absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to do one thing in connection with it, in your own interest and in the interest of the country—to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. I was delighted to learn of the wisdom of the Santa Fe railroad people in deciding not to build their hotel on the brink of the canyon. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel, or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, your children's children and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American, if he can travel at all, should see. We have gotten past the stage, my fellow-citizens, when we are to be pardoned if we treat any part of our country as something to be skinned for two or three years for the use of the present generation, whether it is the forest, the water, the scenery. Whatever it is, handle it so that your children's children will get the benefit of it. If you deal with irrigation, apply it under circumstances that will make it of benefit, not to the speculator who hopes to get profit out of it for two or three years, but handle it so that it will be of use to the home-maker, to the man who comes to live here, and to have his children stay after him. Keep the forests in the same way. Preserve the forests by use; preserve them for the ranchman and the stockman, for the people of the Territory, for the people of the region round about. Preserve them for that use, but use them so that they will not be squandered, that they will not be wasted, so that they will be of benefit to the Arizona of 1953 as well as the Arizona of 1903

To the Indians here I want to say a word of welcome. In my regiment I had a good many Indians. They were good enough to fight and to die, and they are good enough to have me treat them exactly as square as any white man. There are many problems in connection with them. We must save them from corruption and from brutality; and I regret to say that at times we must save them from unregulated Eastern philanthropy. All I ask is a square deal for every man. Give him a fair chance. Do not let him wrong any one, and do not let him be wronged.

I believe in you. I am glad to see you. I wish you well with all my heart, and I know that your future will justify all the hopes we have.


MARY CHURCH TERRELLWhat It Means to Be Colored in the Capital of the United States (".... nowhere in the world do oppression and persecution based solely on the color of the skin appear more hateful and hideous than in the capital of the United States") United Women's Club, Washington, D.C. October 10, 1906

A public school teacher and civil rights and suffrage activist, Terrell (1863– 1954) was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the daughter of slaves. She earned her bachelor's and master's degrees from Oberlin College in Ohio, and was a founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Through her advocacy, she helped overturn segregation laws in Washington, D.C., in 1953

Washington, D.C., has been called "The Colored Man's Paradise." Whether this sobriquet was given to the national capital in bitter irony by a member of the handicapped race, as he reviewed some of his own persecutions and rebuffs, or whether it was given immediately after the war by an ex-slaveholder who for the first time in his life saw colored people walking about like free men, minus the overseer and his whip, history saith not. It is certain that it would be difficult to find a worse misnomer for Washington than "The Colored Man's Paradise" if so prosaic a consideration as veracity is to determine the appropriateness of a name.

For fifteen years I have resided in Washington, and while it was far from being a paradise for colored people when I first touched these shores it has been doing its level best ever since to make conditions for us intolerable. As a colored woman I might enter Washington any night, a stranger in a strange land, and walk miles without finding a place to lay my head. Unless I happened to know colored people who live here or ran across a chance acquaintance who could recommend a colored boarding-house to me, I should be obliged to spend the entire night wandering about. Indians, Chinamen, Filipinos, Japanese and representatives of any other dark race can find hotel accommodations, if they can pay for them. The colored man alone is thrust out of the hotels of the national capital like a leper.

As a colored woman I may walk from the Capitol to the White House, ravenously hungry and abundantly supplied with money with which to purchase a meal, without finding a single restaurant in which I would be permitted to take a morsel of food, if it was patronized by white people, unless I were willing to sit behind a screen. As a colored woman I cannot visit the tomb of the Father of this country, which owes its very existence to the love of freedom in the human heart and which stands for equal opportunity to all, without being forced to sit in the Jim Crow section of an electric car which starts form the very heart of the city—midway between the Capitol and the White House. If I refuse thus to be humiliated, I am cast into jail and forced to pay a fine for violating the Virginia laws....

As a colored woman I may enter more than one white church in Washington without receiving that welcome which as a human being I have the right to expect in the sanctuary of God....

Unless I am willing to engage in a few menial occupations, in which the pay for my services would be very poor, there is no way for me to earn an honest living, if I am not a trained nurse or a dressmaker or can secure a position as teacher in the public schools, which is exceedingly difficult to do. It matters not what my intellectual attainments may be or how great is the need of the services of a competent person, if I try to enter many of the numerous vocations in which my white sisters are allowed to engage, the door is shut in my face.

From one Washington theater I am excluded altogether. In the remainder certain seats are set aside for colored people, and it is almost impossible to secure others....

With the exception of the Catholic University, there is not a single white college in the national capital to which colored people are admitted.... A few years ago the Columbian Law School admitted colored students, but in deference to the Southern white students the authorities have decided to exclude them altogether.

Some time ago a young woman who had already attracted some attention in the literary world by her volume of short stories answered an advertisement which appeared in a Washington newspaper, which called for the services of a skilled stenographer and expert typewriter.... The applicants were requested to send specimens of their work and answer certain questions concerning their experience and their speed before they called in person. In reply to her application the young colored woman ... received a letter from the firm stating that her references and experience were the most satisfactory that had been sent and requesting her to call. When she presented herself there was some doubt in the mind of the man to whom she was directed concerning her racial pedigree, so he asked her point-blank whether she was colored or white. When she confessed the truth the merchant expressed ... deep regret that he could not avail himself of the services of so competent a person, but frankly admitted that employing a colored woman in his establishment in any except a menial position was simply out of the question....

Not only can colored women secure no employment in the Washington stores, department and otherwise, except as menials, and such positions, of course, are few, but even as customers they are not infrequently treated with discourtesy both by the clerks and the proprietor himself....

Although white and colored teachers are under the same Board of Education and the system for the children of both races is said to be uniform, prejudice against the colored teachers in the public schools is manifested in a variety of ways. From 1870 to 1900 there was a colored superintendent at the head of the colored schools. During all that time the directors of the cooking, sewing, physical culture, manual training, music and art departments were colored people. Six years ago a change was inaugurated. The colored superintendent was legislated out of office and the directorships, without a single exception, were taken from colored teachers and given to the whites....

Now, no matter how competent or superior the colored teachers in our public schools may be, they know that they can never rise to the height of a directorship, can never hope to be more than an assistant and receive the meager salary therefore, unless the present regime is radically changed....

Strenuous efforts are being made to run Jim Crow cars in the national capital.... Representative Heflin, of Alabama, who introduced a bill providing for Jim Crow street cars in the District of Columbia last winter, has just received a letter from the president of the East Brookland Citizens' Association "indorsing the movement for separate street cars and sincerely hoping that you will be successful in getting this enacted into a law as soon as possible." Brookland is a suburb of Washington.

The colored laborer's path to a decent livelihood is by no means smooth. Into some of the trades unions here he is admitted, while from others he is excluded altogether. By the union men this is denied, although I am personally acquainted with skilled workmen who tell me they are not admitted into the unions because they are colored. But even when they are allowed to join the unions they frequently derive little benefit, owing to certain tricks of the trade. When the word passes round that help is needed and colored laborers apply, they are often told by the union officials that they have secured all the men they needed, because the places are reserved for white men, until they have been provided with jobs, and colored men must remain idle, unless the supply of white men is too small....

And so I might go on citing instance after instance to show the variety of ways in which our people are sacrificed on the altar of prejudice in the capital of the United States and how almost insurmountable are the obstacles which block his path to success....

It is impossible for any white person in the United States, no matter how sympathetic and broad, to realize what life would mean to him if his incentive to effort were suddenly snatched away. To the lack of incentive to effort, which is the awful shadow under which we live, may be traced the wreck and ruin of score of colored youth. And surely nowhere in the world do oppression and persecution based solely on the color of the skin appear more hateful and hideous than in the capital of the United States, because the chasm between the principles upon which this Government was founded, in which it still professes to believe, and those which are daily practiced under the protection of the flag, yawn so wide and deep.


EMMA GOLDMANWhat Is Patriotism? (".... patriotism is too narrow and limited a conception to meet the necessities of our time") San Francisco, California May 1908

In the first two decades of the twentieth century, Emma Goldman (1869– 1940), born in Russia, was one of the most famous and controversial speakers on socialism and women's rights. As a teenager, she was educated in Germany before she moved to the United States, where she became an anarchist and free-speech advocate. Immediately after this speech in the spring in San Francisco, an American war veteran complimented (or, as he would claim, simply greeted) her, and was consequently arrested for treason and sentenced to five years in prison. Goldman herself would serve two years in prison for encouraging resistance to the draft for World War I and was thereafter deported from the United States.

Men and Women:

What is patriotism? Is it love of one's birthplace, the place of childhood's recollections and hopes, dreams and aspirations? Is it the place where, in childlike naiveté, we would watch the passing clouds, and wonder why we, too, could not float so swiftly? The place where we would count the milliard glittering stars, terror-stricken lest each one "an eye should be," piercing the very depths of our little souls? Is it the place where we would listen to the music of the birds and long to have wings to fly, even as they, to distant lands? Or is it the place where we would sit on Mother's knee, enraptured by tales of great deeds and conquests? In short, is it love for the spot, every inch representing dear and precious recollections of a happy, joyous and playful childhood?

If that were patriotism, few American men of today would be called upon to be patriotic, since the place of play has been turned into factory, mill, and mine, while deepening sounds of machinery have replaced the music of the birds. No longer can we hear the tales of great deeds, for the stories our mothers tell today are but those of sorrow, tears and grief.

What, then, is patriotism? "Patriotism, sir, is the last resort of scoundrels," said Dr. Samuel Johnson. Leo Tolstoy, the greatest anti-patriot of our time, defines patriotism as the principle that will justify the training of wholesale murderers; a trade that requires better equipment in the exercise of man-killing than the making of such necessities as shoes, clothing, and houses; a trade that guarantees better returns and greater glory than that of the honest workingman.

Indeed, conceit, arrogance and egotism are the essentials of patriotism. Let me illustrate. Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot consider themselves nobler, better, grander, more intelligent than those living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all the others.

The inhabitants of the other spots reason in like manner, of course, with the result that from early infancy the mind of the child is provided with blood-curdling stories about the Germans, the French, the Italians, Russians, etc. When the child has reached manhood he is thoroughly saturated with the belief that he is chosen by the Lord himself to defend his country against the attack or invasion of any foreigner. It is for that purpose that we are clamoring for a greater army and navy, more battleships and ammunition.


Excerpted from Great Speeches of the Twentieth Century by Bob Blaisdell. Copyright © 2011 Bob Blaisdell. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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Table of Contents

Theodore Roosevelt. "The Natural Wonder of the Grand Canyon" (May 6, 1903)
Mary Church Terrell. "What It Means to Be Colored in the Capital of the United States" (October 10, 1906)
Emma Goldman. "What Is Patriotism?" (May 1908)
Carlos Montezuma (Wassaja). "Light on the Indian Situation" (October 5, 1912)
Emmeline Pankhurst. "Militant Suffragists" (November 13, 1913)
David Lloyd George. "An Appeal to the Nation" (September 19, 1914)
Vladimir Lenin. "The Dictatorship of the Proletariat" (March 4, 1919)
Mohandas K. Gandhi. "Ahmedabad" (April 14, 1919)
Marcus Garvey. "The Handwriting Is on the Wall" (August 31, 1921)
Margaret Sanger. "Morality of Birth Control" (November 18, 1921)
Alfred E. Smith. "Religious Prejudcie and Politics" (September 20, 1928)
Eamon de Valera. "Ireland among the Nations" (February 6, 1933)
Haile Selassie. "Address to the League of Nations" (June 30, 1936)
Edward VII. "Farewell Address" (December 11, 1936)
Winston Churchill. "Blood, Sweat and Tears" (May 13, 1940)
Charles de Gaulle. "The Flame of French Revolution" (June 22, 1940)
Franklin Delano Roosevelt. "The Arsenal of Democracy" (December 29, 19400)
George S. Patton, Jr. "The Invasion of Normandy" (May 17, 1944)
W. E. B. Du Bois. "Behold the Land" (October 20, 1946)
Jawaharlal Nehru. "A Glory Has Departed" (February 2, 1948)
Paul Robeson. "For Freedom and Peace" (June 19, 1949)
Margaret Chase Smith. "Declaration of Conscience" (June 1, 1950)
Eleanor Roosevelt. "The United Nations as a Bridge" (December 17, 1954)
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev. "The Personality Cult and Its Consequences" (February 24-25, 1956)
Douglas A. MacArthur. "Duty, Honor, Country" (May 12, 1962)
John F. Kennedy. "The Strategy for Peace" (June 10, 1963)
Martin Luther King, Jr. "I Have a Dream" (August 28, 1963)
Che Guevara. "Colonialism Is Doomed" (December 11, 1964)
Cesar Chavez. "The Mexican-American and the Church" (March 10, 1968)
Lyndon Baines Johnson. "On Vietnam and on the Decision Not to Seek Reelection" (March 31, 1968)
Shirley Chisholm. "Equal Rights for Women" (May 21, 1969)
Pierre Trudeau. "Notes for a National Broadcast" (October 16, 1970)
Chaim Herzog. "Response to 'Zionism Is Racism" (November 10, 1975)
Harvey Milk. "The Hope Speech" (March 10, 1978)
Ursula K. Le Guin. "A Left-Handed Commencement Address" (May 19, 1983)
Ralph Nader. "The Megacorporate World of Ronald Reagan" (June 6, 1984)
Ronald Reagan. "The Berlin Wall" (June 12, 1987)
Nelson Mandela. "Address to a Rally in Cape Town on His Release from Prison" (February 11, 1990)
Vaclav Havel. "Address to a Joint Session of Congress" (February 21, 1990)
Mother Teresa. National Prayer Breakfast Speech (February 3, 1994)
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Opening Keynote Address, Fourth World Conference on Women (August 31, 1995)
Benazir Bhutto. "Male Domination of Women" (September 4, 1995)
Elie Wiesel. "The Perils of Indifference" (April 12, 1999)
Appendix: Great Speeches of the Twenty-First Century:
Rudolph Giuliani. "9/11" (September 11, 2001)
Barack Obama. Presidential Election-Night Speech (November 5, 2008)

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