Jane McGuire

The most memorable speeches of all time

The most memorable speeches of all time

First published date April 29 2015 Amended date February 03 2016

We couldn’t write a guide on public speaking without looking at some of the most memorable speeches of all time. Whether it’s war time motivation or an end to racial discrimination, these public speakers changed the world. If reading these quotes doesn’t inspire you to take a public speaking course, nothing will.


Winston Churchill – ‘We shall fight them on the beaches’

4 June, 1940

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Although he was actually born with a speech impediment, you wouldn’t know when listening to Winston Churchill’s famous voice. The reassuring tones that would push Britain through the Second World War, ‘we shall fight them on the beaches’ became one of Churchill’s most memorable wartime speeches.

‘We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender’


Martin Luther King Jr – ‘I have a dream’

28 August, 1963

Image via nationalgeographic.com

An obvious choice, Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I have a dream’ speech is renowned as one of the greatest pieces of oratory in American history. A century after the abolishment of slavery, King addressed a crowd in Washington and spoke of his dream of an end to the racial discrimination still prevalent in America.

‘I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.’


King George VI – ‘Radio Address’

3 September 1939

Image via bbc.co.uk

King George will never be remembered for his public speaking skills, but this speech has been brought back to life in the recent film ‘The King’s Speech’ (2010) and will always be remembered in British history.

‘In this grave hour, perhaps the most fateful in history, I send to every household of my peoples, both at home and overseas, this message, spoken with the same depth of feeling for each one of you as if I were able to cross your threshold and speak to you myself. For the second time in the lives of most of us, we are at war.’


Nelson Mandela – ‘I am prepared to die’

20 April, 1964

Image via guardian.co.uk

Nelson Mandela’s three hour speech was given from the dock at the Rivonia Trial. His speech is now considered a key movement in the history of South African democracy, and was the words that led to Mandela’s 27 year imprisonment.  

‘During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.’


Emmeline Pankhurst – ‘Freedom or death’

13 November, 1913

Image via wikipedia.org

We couldn’t leave all the talking to the men could we? Giving voice to the suffragettes, Emmeline Pankhurst became a great advent of feminism, winning women the right to vote.

‘You have left it to women in your land, the men of all civilised countries have left it to women, to work out their own salvation. That is the way in which we women of England are doing. Human life for us is sacred, but we say if any life is to be sacrificed it shall be ours; we won’t do it ourselves, but we will put the enemy in the position where they will have to choose between giving us freedom or giving us death.’


If we have inspired you to learn how to speak like the great leaders mentioned above, why not take a look at the public speaking courses listed on our site and get inspired. Who knows where your words might take you. 

Jane McGuire

Jane McGuire received her BA (English) from the University of Loughborough. A yoga enthusiast with a sweet tooth, in her spare time you will probably find Jane in the gym or online shopping.