Some Fabulous Lesser-Known Speeches

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My friend is a rhetoric major, and she needs to analyze a single text for her senior thesis. She doesn't like to analyze single texts, preferring instead to compare two or more texts. So, I suggested for her a couple awesome speeches that nobody knows about.

I'm not saying that "I Have a Dream" and "The Ballot or the Bullet" or Reagan's Challenger address are insignificant. In fact, "we slipped the surly bonds of Earth to touch the face of God" remains the single best use of iambic meter in the 20th century. But each of those famous speeches has been analyzed hundreds of times over. Little new is left to discover. To that end, I've created a list of less-well-known speeches that are pretty cool:

The Rev. Al Sharpton, 2004 DNC: This speech is incredible because of its shape, and the power of its meaning. Written in two parts, it slowly ramps up through the first half into the second half's staggering crescendo, finally ending on the most patriotic use of Ray Charles I've ever heard.

Awesome line: "Mr. President, the reason we are fighting so hard, the reason we took Florida so seriously, is our right to vote wasn't gained because of our age. Our vote was soaked in the blood of martyrs, soaked in the blood of Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner, soaked in the blood of four little girls in Birmingham." Believe it or not, it gets better from there.

Full audio: click here

Barbara Bush, Wellesly College Commencement: Just a nice grandiose speech. So many commencement speakers try to be so expansive, and to deliver "the speech that will define the graduates' time at the school." Really, though, the best of them simply speak gently and humorously, and join in the celebration.

This speech closes with a gem, though: "Thank you," she says, "and may your future be worthy of your dreams."

Full audio: click here

Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, Cape Town University: This speech is rather well-known, but it has the best opening of any I can recall. Really you should listen for yourself (link just below), but the opening paragraph is simply stunning. Revolutionized a generation's way of thinking:

"I come here this evening because of my deep interest and affection for a land settled by the Dutch in the mid-seventeenth century, then taken over by the British, and at last independent; a land in which the native inhabitants were at first subdued, but relations with whom remain a problem to this day; a land which defined itself on a hostile frontier; a land which has tamed rich natural resources through the energetic application of modern technology; a land which once the importer of slaves, and now must struggle to wipe out the last traces of that former bondage. I refer, of course, to the United States of America."

Full audio: click here

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