Making History

We all know of speeches that have been considered as the best throughout the history of human civilization. So, what makes them so, well, historic? What makes someone worthy of being knighted by the Speak King, as both Patrick Henry and Winston Churchill have? I would easily say that circumstance and timeliness plays a large hand in the gravity of what one says. There must be a situation that arises to cause a man or woman to rise up, break out of their normalcy, and take the throne of a “speak king.” Furthermore, there must be a man/woman full of the characteristics that fuel the flame of the perfect circumstance. The individual making the speech at the vital time must be passionate, immersing themselves in their speeches. Their voice differentiates, they pause, and they emphasize importance with stress on certain sentences and body language. I would say that these two things (time/place and character) rely on one another directly. However, to even scratch the legacy of the greatest speeches ever, your speech itself must hold up under its own weight.

There are three aspects to a successful, memorable speech: style, substance, and impact. The first component, style, is obvious in the viewing of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech. There is no more powerful speech since the dawning of man that carries more significance and power than this. King paints a picture in the listener’s mind with imagery and rattles with unparalleled ferocity throughout, which drives home the fact that the listener SHOULD care and SHOULD listen to what he has to say. The metaphors used by King are masterfully constructed, envoking specific emotions and key times while he’s speaking. His style is flawless in his delivery and his content.

The second facet of great oratory is substance. Any speech can be full of metaphors, imagery, flawless diction, and charasmatically presented, but empty on substance. A historic speech must be centered on a critical theme, show resolve in its own message, and resonate with the audience. “The Gettysburg Address” written and spoken by Abraham Lincoln is a shining example of substance. Some could say that there are three foundations of American freedom: The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address. Abraham Lincoln did not acknowledge the lives that had been lost at the Battle of Gettysburg, any soldier’s names, either sides who were waging war, states rights, nor of Gettysburg itself. Instead, he questioned whether government could keep its proposal of equality and continue to move towards it. A speech like this with the meaning it carried during the time it was spoken, changed American history forever.

The final key aspect of an incredible speech is impact. A life-changing speech is on that lifts up hearts in times when they have been pulled to the floor. It spreads hope in times when hope is spread thin. A memorable speech inspires, refines, and honors. The impact must have its resonance not only with the audience, but with history itself. A demonstration of a speech with profound impact is Mahatma Gandhi’s “Quit India” speech. His proposition of a non-violent movement pointed straight at the rule of Britain in India. On August 8, 1942 Gandhi rallied Indians and called for the passing of the Quit India Resolution which demanded complete independence from British rule. Though he was thrown in jail, his message was not caged and spread a fire through the people of India. The impact of Gandhi’s message planted the seed in the Indian people that led to Britain’s relinquishing of India and a monumental moment in history.



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Filed under Public Speaking in the Real World, The Art of Public Speaking

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