The Folio Book of Historic Speeches
When Cicero spoke, Caesar trembled; Robespierre’s words sent a king to the guillotine, while Chief Powhatan’s wisdom stopped war between the white colonists and the American Indians.
An advertising billboard may grab the attention, a political pamphlet influence ideas, or a work of literature expand our horizons, but in the mouth of a great orator the spoken word can do more. A speech can start a revolution, inspire a people, change a belief and make plain the moving forces that shaped history. Though forged in the heat of momentous events, the words are not confined to any one time, interesting only to historians. Instead, they remain a continuing inspiration and challenge long after the speaker is gone. Who has forgotten Martin Luther King’s great appeal to America and the world; or Nehru’s passionate eulogy on Mahatma Gandhi? Churchill’s call for resistance still stirs the blood just as Hitler’s rhetoric chills it.
The Folio Book of Historic Speeches brings together epoch-defining speeches – each accompanied by a brief introduction to set it in its historical context – from Pericles’ paean to patriotism and democracy in the Peloponnesian War, through Thomas Jefferson’s appeal for ‘justice to all men’, to Neil Armstrong’s transmission from space. The famous, sometimes notorious, men and women who made these speeches are those who, for better, for worse, have shaped the world in which we live. As he stood on the Gettysburg battlefield, Lincoln said, ‘The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here’ – he was wrong.
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