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Human history has always been shaped by catastrophes, revolutions, migrations, discoveries and wars. But the intensity of these events made some people stand up and deliver epochal speeches that give hope and create determination to stand the trials of great social change.
The power of a great speech lies not so much in what is said but more in how it is said and how well that resonates with the sign of its time. But a great speech goes even further. It transcends time and place, offering wisdom that stirs souls long after the original speakers have been silenced.
DocsOnline has rounded the most powerful televised speeches of the 20th and 21st centuries. These selected speeches rise above the rest because of the passion with which they were delivered, the importance of the moment at which they were held, and their impact on history. Below we have conveniently placed these speeches on a timeline to visualize their historic significance.
One of the first recorded speeches in history is Franklin D. Roosevelts inauguration address to the nation, 90 years ago on March 4th.
When Franklin Roosevelt was inaugurated as president 80 years ago on March 4th 1933 the Unided States was in the grips of the Great Depression. Several million Americans heard Roosevelt’s address which was broadcast on radio nationwide. He had won a landslide victory over the incumbent Herbert Hoover and in his speech he began laying the groundwork for his New Deal policies and economic policies.
The Infamy Speech, also commonly known as the Pearl Harbor Speech, was a speech delivered by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt to a Joint Session of the U.S. Congress on December 8, 1941, one day after the Empire of Japan’s attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and the Japanese declaration of war on the United States and the British Empire. The name derives from the first line of the speech: Roosevelt describing the previous day as “a date which will live in infamy“.
Within an hour of the speech, Congress passed a formal declaration of war against Japan and officially brought the U.S. into World War II. The address is one of the most famous of all American political speeches
The Cold War began with the Truman Doctrine in 1947 and ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall, shortly followed by the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
It was termed the Cold War because it never involved direct military action between the warring parties, due to the nuclear threat of mutually assured destruction.
When the Allied powers met at Yalta and Potsdam to shape post-war Europe, Stalin’s insistence that Soviet Borders be extended to cover Eastern Poland and the Baltic States raised anxieties about his expansionist ambitions. Between 1945 – 1947, the Soviets gained in influence as communist governments were founded in Eastern European states (jointly known as the Eastern Bloc). With Britain’s status as a world power damaged by six years of war, it became clear Western power with comparable strength to the Soviet Union was the United States. In 1947 the British prime minister Winston Churchill had to request US support in Greece where a civil war was raging between the royalist government and communist partisans. The request prompted US president Truman to pledge assistance to all states trying to defend democracy against external threats. This pledge was announced in his famous speech “A Fateful Hour” and it became known as the Truman Doctrine.