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The Penguin Book of Historic Speeches

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Brian MacArthur

The Penguin Book of Historic Speeches Paperback – May 28, 2013

In this superb companion volume to the acclaimed Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century Speeches , veteran journalist Brian MacArthur brings together the words of more than one hundred influential men and women who changed and inspired the world through the sheer power of their oratory.

            This newly updated edition includes the best speeches in history from notable modern political figures such as Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as famed historical figures such as Moses, Cicero, and Socrates. Helpfully broken out into categories such as Ancient Times (Moses, Jesus, Mohammed), The Birth of the United States (John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin), and Women’s Liberation (Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Betty Freidan), this indispensable reference deserves a spot on the shelf of every student, armchair historian, and teacher. 

  • Print length 528 pages
  • Language English
  • Publisher Penguin Books
  • Publication date May 28, 2013
  • Dimensions 5 x 1.25 x 8 inches
  • ISBN-10 9780241953266
  • ISBN-13 978-0241953266
  • See all details

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  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ 024195326X
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Penguin Books; Reissue edition (May 28, 2013)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 528 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9780241953266
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0241953266
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 12.8 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5 x 1.25 x 8 inches
  • #671 in Literary Speeches
  • #1,784 in Public Speaking Reference
  • #3,993 in Rhetoric (Books)

About the author

Brian macarthur.

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clock This article was published more than  2 years ago

An anthology of great speeches, from the inspirational to the ominous

One late December in the 1950s, Sen. John F. Kennedy received a Christmas present from his speechwriter, Ted Sorensen: a thick, clothbound volume titled “ A Treasury of the World’s Great Speeches .” It was not an immodest gift. Both men imagined that someday, their work together might merit inclusion in an anthology like that, alongside Cicero, Lincoln and Disraeli. Kennedy “devoured” the book, Sorensen recalled years later, “often citing passages to me” for use in his own speeches.

No one can argue with the results. (Indeed, later editions contained two speeches by JFK.) Why, then, is it so hard to picture a present-day politician dog-earing the pages of a speech anthology and studying, as Kennedy did, the cadences of Churchill? Today’s would-be Sorensens, searching for inspiration, are more likely to pull up a video of Barack or Michelle Obama than to dust off the “Treasury” and consult the oratory of, say, Pitt the Younger. Even the word “oratory,” from our postmillennial point of view, seems outdated, the rhetorical equivalent of knee breeches and frock coats. The surest way to get yanked off the stage — any stage — is to clear one’s throat and begin to orate.

Highly polished, heavily rehearsed remarks still have an audience, as the popularity of Ted talks makes clear. But most modern speeches reflect what Kathleen Hall Jamieson of the University of Pennsylvania has called the “conversational style”: not ineloquent, necessarily, but informal, plain-spoken. The trick, the sleight of hand, is a script that doesn’t seem scripted. “This sounds like a speech,” Bill Clinton would sometimes complain when reviewing a draft. “I just want to talk to people.” The conversational style is not new — its roots run through the speeches of Clinton and Ronald Reagan to the fireside chats of Franklin Roosevelt — but in the past few decades it has become the default. It fulfills our yearning for “authenticity”: Colloquial speech sounds direct and unpremeditated. It also happens to suit a time when speeches are delivered to screens of little people-squares rather than crowded ballrooms. Grandiloquence plays poorly on a laptop.

Our sense of what constitutes a great speech is, as ever, evolving. So is our sense of who might deliver one. The compendium that Sorensen gave Kennedy contains about 150 speeches. These include three by the 18th-century French statesman Comte de Mirabeau, but only two by women (Queen Elizabeth I and Elizabeth Cady Stanton) and two by Black speakers (Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington). “ Lend Me Your Ears ,” edited by William Safire, remains the gold standard after nearly 30 years in print, but its gender imbalance is almost as glaring as that in the “Treasury.” It is hardly alone in this regard, as an analysis by the speechwriter Dana Rubin reveals. The canon of great speeches is a stag party. (Rubin, in response, has launched Speaking While Female , an online archive of women’s speeches.)

Clearly, the anthology of speeches, as an institution, is ripe for a reboot. If it is to remain — in that cruelest of adjectives — relevant, it has to make room for new voices and for “talk” that reads, in many cases, like a transcript. And it must do these things while establishing, for readers who might assume otherwise, that we still have something to draw from the traditional wellsprings of rhetoric: the Greeks, British prime ministers, American presidents. The late Brian MacArthur, a British journalist, worked assiduously for years to update Penguin’s volumes of speeches; now we also have “ Voices of History ,” a compelling collection by the historian Simon Sebag Montefiore.

The classics, Montefiore contends, have not lost their power to inspire, to instruct, to challenge the conscience. But today, given the global reach of technology, “oratory is flourishing in a way that is more visceral and popular than it ever was. . . . Young speakers like Greta Thunberg and Malala can become instantly world-famous in one televised speech” — a speech that can then be viewed online millions of times. A few such speeches are included here, among them a 2012 Ted talk on feminism by the writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (“The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are”).

But Montefiore’s focus is on noting — and warning — that “words have consequences.” Those consequences, as this collection shows, have been measured both in human progress and in bloodshed. “Our age of populism, racism, anti-Semitism and conspiracism,” Montefiore writes, makes us acutely aware that “the violence of language . . . leads inexorably towards the practice of violence.” While the balance sheet here favors the peacemakers — the Gandhis, Kings and Mandelas — the book includes, as it must, despots and demagogues. If we ever did before, we can no longer read the maledictions of Himmler or of Robespierre (“Terror is nothing other than justice”) with a sense of safe remove; the narcissistic pathos of Eva Perón (“You will pick up my name and will carry it to victory as a banner”) and Nero in his final moments (“What an artist the world is losing in me! . . . So this is loyalty?”) have an all-too-familiar and ominous ring. Evil, as Montefiore notes, often arrives in the guise of absurdity, but we cannot, today, be quick to laugh.

As anthologies go, this one is fairly compact: Montefiore intends his book to be read, not consigned to the reference shelf. Yet he seems a bit worried about losing his audience. A writer of fiction and popular histories, Montefiore is a vivid storyteller, but his commentary on speeches often has a rushed, perfunctory feel. Winston Churchill’s vow to “fight on the beaches” gets only a paragraph of introduction; Barack Obama’s 2008 election night speech, we are told, reflects “the idealism of the American experience” — a phrase that invites explication it does not receive. The texts, one might argue, speak for themselves, but “Voices of History” would have greater value if it shed more light on how they were drafted, on the tools and techniques that achieve their effects, on their echoes of great speeches of the past.

Still, this collection contains plenty of fodder for future Sorensens — maybe even a JFK. There are words to echo and recall, and words better thrown on the ash heap of history. Either way: “Words matter,” as Montefiore concludes. “Respect them.” The voices in this book make a strong case for that.

Voices of History

Speeches That Changed the World

By Simon Sebag Montefiore

Vintage. 298 pp. 16.95 paperback

book on famous speeches

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History Books » Contemporary History (1945-)

The best speeches of all time, recommended by clarence b jones.

Behind the Dream by Clarence B Jones

Behind the Dream by Clarence B Jones

Which were the best speeches ever made? Clarence B Jones , lawyer, friend and adviser to Martin Luther King Jr—and contributor to the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech—chooses his top five, and explains what is that makes these famous speeches so good.

Interview by Anna Blundy

Behind the Dream by Clarence B Jones

Franklin D Roosevelt’s inaugural address, 4 March 1933 by Various authors

The Best Speeches of All Time - John F Kennedy’s inaugural address, 20 January 1961 by Various authors

John F Kennedy’s inaugural address, 20 January 1961 by Various authors

The Best Speeches of All Time - Laurence Olivier’s Oscar Acceptance Speech (1979) by YouTube video

Laurence Olivier’s Oscar Acceptance Speech (1979) by YouTube video

The Best Speeches of All Time - Dr Martin Luther King, Jr’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, 28 August 1963 by Martin Luther King Jr

Dr Martin Luther King, Jr’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, 28 August 1963 by Martin Luther King Jr

The Best Speeches of All Time - Nelson Mandela’s inaugural address as President of South Africa, 10 May 1994 by David Elliot Cohen

Nelson Mandela’s inaugural address as President of South Africa, 10 May 1994 by David Elliot Cohen

The Best Speeches of All Time - Franklin D Roosevelt’s inaugural address, 4 March 1933 by Various authors

1 Franklin D Roosevelt’s inaugural address, 4 March 1933 by Various authors

2 john f kennedy’s inaugural address, 20 january 1961 by various authors, 3 laurence olivier’s oscar acceptance speech (1979) by youtube video, 4 dr martin luther king, jr’s ‘i have a dream’ speech, 28 august 1963 by martin luther king jr, 5 nelson mandela’s inaugural address as president of south africa, 10 may 1994 by david elliot cohen.

Y ou’ve chosen what you regard as the best speeches of all time for us and Roosevelt’s Inaugural Address is your first choice. Tell me about this speech.

What is it about the actual speech, about the way it’s written, that is so brilliant?

Well, what impressed me about the speech was that, to me, the measure of or index of a good speech is not merely the words that are festooned together and spoken – presumably by someone who has a good delivery or even an exceptional delivery – but the extent to which the text of speech, the substance of the speech, is responsive and addresses the major issues of the time. I wasn’t so concerned about Roosevelt’s delivery, but I measured the text against the magnitude of the problem to which it was addressed.

The famous line is: ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself.’

Tell me about JFK’s inaugural address.

Well, JFK , as you know, or maybe you don’t know, won the presidential election by merely 120,000 popular votes over Richard Nixon. The country was clearly divided; we were in the apex of what one would now describe as the Cold War, the great competition between ourselves and the Soviet Union, and here this younger man had taken over from Eisenhower, a World War II hero. This young man, whose inauguration day was relatively cold, some would say freezing cold, gave the address with no hat on, no scarf on, signalling the health and vitality of the new younger generation. He enumerated the problems that the country was confronted with, and then, of course, came the classic line: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’

“In my judgement, the measure of a speech is not merely the text or words, or even the person who delivers the speech, but the context of the speech.”

Just recently we had the passing of Sargent Shriver, who was the architect of the Peace Corps, the most celebrated form of government volunteer service that this country has ever had. The Peace Corps came out of the Kennedy administration. What came out of the address was that we could indeed be competitive with the Soviet Union, that this was a new generation coming into power and he wanted to say to the people that this new generation was ready – professionally ready, managerially ready, morally ready, militarily ready. It was up to the task.

Who wrote it?

Well, Theodore Sorensen contributed to it.

Did he write most of JFK’s speeches or help write them?

Tell me about Laurence Olivier’s Oscar acceptance speech (which I’ll quote for our readers, since it’s not very long).

“Mr President and governors of the Academy, committee members, fellows, my very noble and approved good masters, my colleagues, my friends, my fellow students: In the great wealth, the great firmament of your nation’s generosities this particular choice may perhaps be found by future generations as a trifle eccentric, but the mere fact of it – the prodigal, pure, human kindness of it – must be seen as a beautiful star in that firmament which shines upon me at this moment dazzling me a little, but filling me with the warmth of the extraordinary elation, the euphoria that happens to so many of us at the first breath of the majestic glow of a new tomorrow. From the top of this moment, in the solace, in the kindly emotion that is charging my soul and my heart at this moment, I thank you for this great gift which lends me such a very splendid part in this, your glorious occasion. Thank you.”

It was a very short speech, and its power was in its spontaneity and its erudition. I don’t have to tell you that he was one of the great actors of the 20th century. A number of people who get Academy Awards come up and read from a written text or they say something that is kind of banal, but Olivier quoted some Shakespeare. It was very eloquent. It really spoke about the fact that he was honoured and humble – but it was just the way he spoke to this group of actors and actresses, and an example of the magnificent use of language.

What did he win for?

So, now we’re moving on to your speech. The Martin Luther King .

Well, the Martin Luther King speech, of course… To understand it, you have to see it within the historical context. It was made three months after a very successful and very searing campaign in Birmingham, Alabama, in April of 1963, when the country and the world saw pictures of young negro girls and boys being pummelled against a wall with fire hoses and police dogs nipping at their ankles as they were peacefully marching in opposition to racial segregation. So that was April 63, and then, in August, some four months later, King was speaking at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial to more than 250,000 people. He was speaking to celebrate and to validate the success of the civil rights movement at that point, but also speaking prophetically about his hope for a better America. The ‘I Have A Dream’ speech, the portion that is most talked about, was totally spontaneous and extemporaneous. It wasn’t written.

You didn’t write that bit?

No. The contribution I made was in the first nine paragraphs. What happened was that as he got through reading the first nine paragraphs of prepared texts to which I contributed some language and concepts, he was interrupted by his favourite gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson, who was on the podium with him, and he paused in the middle of his speaking and she shouted: ‘Tell them about the dream, Martin! Tell them about the dream!’ At which point he put aside the written text. I was standing about 15 yards behind him, and I saw him, I read his body language and I said to the person standing next to me: ‘The people assembled here, they don’t know it, but they’re about ready to go to church.’ It appeared to me that he had gone into his preacher’s body mode.

What did that mean?

Well, before, he stood at the podium reading the text and looking up, but once he decided to speak extemporaneously he assumed a pose I had seen so many times when he was preaching a sermon from a pulpit, being a Baptist minister. He was no longer just a speaker at a public assembly, it was like he was speaking to a massive congregation in a church. And that’s when he went off into this extraordinary ‘I have a dream…’

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What did you think? Did you think, ‘Oh no! What’s he doing to my speech?’

No! First of all, I didn’t consider it ‘my’ speech. I didn’t even know if he was going to incorporate and use the material in the first nine paragraphs. I didn’t know that until I heard it for the first time. I just thought it was rather bold and extraordinary for him to cast aside the written text, but Martin Luther King, Jr was a master orator. He didn’t need a written text to speak eloquently. Using contemporary parlance, I say to people that Martin Luther King, Jr was the only person I have ever observed or known – and I’ve never ever seen or heard anyone do it since – who could compose a speech extemporaneously in real time and while he was speaking. Like we use computer skills, he could cut and paste in his mind from previous speeches or writings and he could insert those excerpts into his real time speech. It was an extraordinary ability. It was a transcendental experience to be there. It was like watching lightning captured in a bottle.

I’m fascinated by what you say about him getting carried away and going into preacher mode, because I saw Bill Clinton speak at the London School of Economics, and he is a captivating speaker…

Yes, he is.

He got everyone in the room to fall in love with him, including an 80-year-old Republican oil magnate sitting next to me, but what he did was, he read slowly and falteringly for the first few paragraphs and then he put the speech aside and leant forward to go into preacher mode. He was probably trying to look like Martin Luther King.

That would be a very challenging task. I am frequently asked, since Dr King’s assassination on 4 April 1968: ‘Who today is most like Martin Luther King, Jr?’ I answer the question very quickly. I say: ‘Who today is most like Shakespeare, like Leonardo Da Vinci, like Michelangelo, like Beethoven, like Mozart? Who? No one.’

But they’re trying!

They try. Some people foolishly try, I believe.

I was just thinking about the wonderful oratorical techniques…

Well, Martin Luther King, Jr was a fourth-generation Baptist preacher, and I spent a good part of the 1960s not only around him but around a lot of other preachers. I would say during that period that there is a style, there is an inside way in which they talk about how they preach, and when you go and preach, they say, you have to be capable of telling them the story. You have to tell the story. The story is going to be whatever your text is going to be that day, but you have to tell it, in eloquent words, using various techniques, such as repetition. Some preachers will repeat a key phrase two or three times to make their point. Martin Luther King was the most gifted orator I had ever heard and that I can ever remember hearing in my lifetime. No one, no person I have ever heard, any place, any time, anywhere on this earth can speak as eloquently as Martin Luther King, Jr.

You sound as if you did know, while you were standing there, what kind of impact the speech was having. Do you think everybody did? Did it seem as momentous then as it does now, or did it seem more momentous then than it does now?

Well, when Dr King was introduced, he was the last speaker of the formal programme, and everyone had been waiting. So when A Philip Randolph said, in this deep sonorous voice, ‘And now, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, the man and the voice that we have been waiting for, the unquestioned moral leader of this nation – I am pleased to introduce the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King, Jr,’ the place exploded. The place was electrified; it was like he had dropped a match and more than 250,000 people exploded in public adulation and acclaim for the person who was about to address them. And then, while he was speaking, particularly when he began to speak extemporaneously in his Baptist preacher mode, it was transcendental. I had heard and seen Martin Luther King give many speeches, under many different circumstances, but this speech was extraordinary.

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Tell me, lastly, about the Nelson Mandela. It’s not going to compare at all – I’m feeling sorry for Nelson now!

Well, you should not. Remember what I said earlier? In my judgement, the measure of a speech is not merely the text or words, or even the person who delivers the speech, but the context of the speech. And here the power of Nelson Mandela’s speech is not merely the words he has put together, but the power of the context. Here is a man who was in prison for 27 years, and now he is addressing the country on his inauguration as its president after a period of painful governance, a period of rigid, brutal apartheid. This former political prisoner is now president of the country, and he gives a speech in an effort to guide the country through a peaceful transition to a multiracial society. I mean, what a circumstance! The power, even the pomp and circumstance of the parliament and legislature, and you have President Nelson Mandela of South Africa addressing his country for the first time as president of the republic of South Africa. It’s the context! It’s the power of the moment!

Is it a good speech, though, in itself?

Yes. It’s a good speech. It’s a speech that is responsive and relevant to the particular historical moment in time. If you know anything about South Africa… When did he give the speech?

If you know anything about the preceding 25 years, that has to be an amazing speech. If I just say to you: ‘The former prisoner of Robben Island who was incarcerated for 27 years is now speaking as President of South Africa,’ that says it all.

It does. If you’re only allowed one of these speeches, I assume you’re taking Dr King’s?

If I’m only allowed one of the speeches…

Or you’re only allowed one line from one of the speeches.

Oh, then no question, Martin Luther King. There are two lines. First of all the beginning – and this is a paraphrase, it’s not exact: ‘We’ve come here to the foot of this great monument to redeem a promissory note that has been returned unpaid for insufficient funds.’ The promissory note is the guarantee of negroes’ freedom under the Declaration of Independence, and he says: ‘I refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the vaults of justice.’ That’s language that I crafted. And the other part I think is so moving if you know something about the history of the United States of America. ‘I have a dream that one day the great-great-grandsons of slaves and the great-great-grandsons and granddaughters of slave owners will sit down at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream, one day…’ Think about it. He dreams that the country will become one America, that it will become so reconciled that the descendents of former slave masters and former slaves will sit down at the table of brotherhood in our country. If you look at the speech or listen to it carefully, it’s all in the future tense. ‘One day I will…’ It’s always prophetic, always in the future. He reflected a more prophetic confidence in America than America had in itself.

This interview was published in 2011.

December 13, 2012

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Clarence B Jones

Clarence B Jones is the former personal counsel, adviser, draft speech writer and close friend of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. He is Scholar in Residence at the Martin Luther King Jr Research and Education Institute at Stanford University.

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Interesting Literature

10 of the Most Famous and Inspirational Speeches from History

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

What makes a great and iconic speech? There are numerous examples of brilliant orators and speechmakers throughout history, from classical times to the present day. What the best speeches tend to have in common are more than just a solid intellectual argument: they have emotive power, or, for want of a more scholarly word, ‘heart’. Great speeches rouse us to action, or move us to tears – or both.

But of course, historic speeches are often also associated with landmark, or watershed, moments in a nation’s history: when Churchill delivered his series of wartime speeches to Britain in 1940, it was against the backdrop of a war which was still in its early, uncertain stages. And when Martin Luther King stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, he was addressing a crowd who, like him, were marching for justice, freedom, and civil rights for African Americans.

Let’s take a closer look at ten of the best and most famous speeches from great moments in history.

Abraham Lincoln, ‘ Gettysburg Address ’ (1863).

The Gettysburg Address is one of the most famous speeches in American history, yet it was extremely short – just 268 words, or less than a page of text – and Abraham Lincoln, who gave the address, wasn’t even the top billing .

The US President Abraham Lincoln gave this short address at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on 19 November 1863. At the time, the American Civil War was still raging, and the Battle of Gettysburg had been the bloodiest battle in the war, with an estimated 23,000 casualties.

Lincoln’s speech has been remembered while Edward Everett’s – the main speech delivered on that day – has long been forgotten because Lincoln eschewed the high-flown allusions and wordy style of most political orators of the nineteenth century. Instead, he addresses his audience in plain, homespun English that is immediately relatable and accessible.

Sojourner Truth, ‘ Ain’t I a Woman? ’ (1851).

Sometimes known as ‘Ar’n’t I a Woman?’, this is a speech which Sojourner Truth, a freed African slave living in the United States, delivered in 1851 at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio. The women in attendance were being challenged to call for the right to vote.

In her speech, Sojourner Truth attempts to persuade the audience to give women the vote . As both an ex-slave and a woman, Sojourner Truth knew about the plight of both groups of people in the United States. Her speech shows her audience the times: change is coming, and it is time to give women the rights that should be theirs.

John Ball, ‘ Cast off the Yoke of Bondage ’ (1381).

The summer of 1381 was a time of unrest in England. The so-called ‘Peasants’ Revolt’, led by Wat Tyler (in actual fact, many of the leaders of the revolt were more well-to-do than your average peasant), gathered force until the rebels stormed London, executing a number of high-ranking officials, including the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor, Simon Sudbury.

Alongside Tyler, the priest John Ball was an important leading figure of the rebellion. His famous couplet, ‘When Adam delved and Eve span, / Who was then the gentleman?’ sums up the ethos of the Peasants’ Revolt: social inequality was unheard of until men created it.

Winston Churchill, ‘ We Shall Fight on the Beaches ’ (1940).

Winston Churchill had only recently assumed the role of UK Prime Minister when he gave the trio of wartime speeches which have gone down in history for their rhetorical skill and emotive power. This, for our money, is the best of the three.

Churchill gave this speech in the House of Commons on 4 June 1940. Having brought his listeners up to speed with what has happened, Churchill comes to the peroration of his speech : by far the most famous part. He reassures them that if nothing is neglected and all arrangements are made, he sees no reason why Britain cannot once more defend itself against invasion: something which, as an island nation, it has always been susceptible to by sea, and now by air.

Even if it takes years, and even if Britain must defend itself alone without any help from its allies, this is what must happen. Capitulation to the Nazis is not an option. The line ‘if necessary for years; if necessary, alone’ is sure to send a shiver down the spine, as is the way Churchill barks ‘we shall never surrender!’ in the post-war recording of the speech he made several years later.

William Faulkner, ‘ The Agony and the Sweat ’ (1950).

This is the title sometimes given to one of the most memorable Nobel Prize acceptance speeches: the American novelist William Faulkner’s acceptance of the Nobel Prize for Literature at Stockholm in 1950.

In his speech, Faulkner makes his famous statement about the ‘duty’ of writers: that they should write about ‘the human heart in conflict with itself’, as well as emotions and themes such as compassion, sacrifice, courage, and hope. He also emphasises that being a writer is hard work, and involves understanding human nature in all its complexity. But good writing should also remind readers what humankind is capable of.

Emmeline Pankhurst, ‘ The Plight of Women ’ (1908).

Pankhurst (1858-1928) was the leader of the British suffragettes, campaigning – and protesting – for votes for women. After she realised that Asquith’s Liberal government were unlikely to grand women the vote, the Women’s Social and Political Union, founded by Pankhurst with her daughter Christabel, turned to more militant tactics to shift public and parliamentary opinion.

Her emphasis in this speech is on the unhappy lot most women could face, in marriage and in motherhood. She also shows how ‘man-made’ the laws of England are, when they are biased in favour of men to the detriment of women’s rights.

This speech was given at the Portman Rooms in London in 1908; ten years later, towards the end of the First World War, women over 30 were finally given the vote. But it would be another ten years, in 1928 – the year of Pankhurst’s death – before the voting age for women was equal to that for men (21 years).

Franklin Roosevelt, ‘ The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself ’ (1933).

This is the title by which Roosevelt’s speech at his inauguration in 1933 has commonly become known, and it has attained the status of a proverb. Roosevelt was elected only a few years after the Wall Street Crash of 1929 which ushered in the Great Depression.

Roosevelt’s famous line in the speech, which offered hope to millions of Americans dealing with unemployment and poverty, was probably inspired by a line from Henry David Thoreau, a copy of whose writings FDR had been gifted shortly before his inauguration. The line about having nothing to fear except fear itself was, in fact, only added into the speech the day before the inauguration took place, but it ensured that the speech went down in history.

Marcus Tullius Cicero, ‘ Among Us You Can Dwell No Longer ’ (63 BC).

Of all of the great classical orators, perhaps the greatest of all was the Roman statesman, philosopher, and speechmaker, Cicero (whose name literally means ‘chickpea’).

This is probably his best-known speech. At the Temple of Jupiter in Rome, Cicero addressed the crowd, but specifically directed his comments towards Lucius Catiline, who was accused of plotting a conspiracy to set fire to the capital and stage and insurrection. The speech was considered such a fine example of Roman rhetoric that it was a favourite in classrooms for centuries after, as Brian MacArthur notes in The Penguin Book of Historic Speeches .

Queen Elizabeth I, ‘ The Heart and Stomach of a King ’ (1588).

Queen Elizabeth I’s speech to the troops at Tilbury is among the most famous and iconic speeches in English history. On 9 August 1588, Elizabeth addressed the land forces which had been mobilised at the port of Tilbury in Essex, in preparation for the expected invasion of England by the Spanish Armada.

When she gave this speech, Elizabeth was in her mid-fifties and her youthful beauty had faded. But she had learned rhetoric as a young princess, and this training served her well when she wrote and delivered this speech (she was also a fairly accomplished poet ).

She famously tells her troops: ‘I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too’. She acknowledged the fact that her body was naturally less masculine and strong than the average man’s, but it is not mere physical strength that will win the day. It is courage that matters.

Martin Luther King, ‘ I Have a Dream ’ (1963).

Let’s conclude this selection of the best inspirational speeches with the best-known of all of Martin Luther King’s speeches. The occasion for this piece of oratorical grandeur was the march on Washington , which saw some 210,000 men, women, and children gather at the Washington Monument in August 1963, before marching to the Lincoln Memorial. King reportedly stayed up until 4am the night before he was due to give the speech, writing it out.

King’s speech imagines a collective vision of a better and more equal America which is not only shared by many Black Americans, but by anyone who identifies with their fight against racial injustice, segregation, and discrimination.

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  • Front Seat of History: Famous Speeches

What would it have been like to stand in the crowd during history's most famous speeches? This narrative-nonfiction series gives readers the chance to imagine it first-hand. Exploring the historical context, polarizing reactions, and their lasting legacies, this series places readers right in the front row of the action. Aligned with curriculum standards, these books also highlight key 21st Century content: Global Awareness, Media Literacy, and Civic Literacy. Thought-provoking content and hands-on activities encourage critical thinking. Books includes table of contents, glossary of key words, index, author biography, sidebars, and timeline.

Cover: Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

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Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 1863: Still mourning from the loss of her brother at the Battle of Gettysburg, a young girl and her family listen to President Lincoln's address. Aligned with… More →

Cover: Barack Obama's Inaugural Address

Barack Obama's Inaugural Address

Washington, D.C., 2008. Two sisters and their mother stand in the crowd to watch Barack Obama be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States. Aligned with curriculum standards, these… More →

Cover: Frederick Douglass's Fourth of July Speech

Frederick Douglass's Fourth of July Speech

Rochester, New York, 1852: A young boy listens to Frederick Douglass deliver his speech, and begins to question the meaning of Independence Day. Aligned with curriculum standards, these… More →

Cover: George W. Bush's 9/11 Address to the Nation

George W. Bush's 9/11 Address to the Nation

New York, New York, 2001: A young girl and her mother watch the television in horror as two airplanes strike the Twin Towers. Aligned with curriculum standards, these narrative-nonfiction… More →

Cover: John F. Kennedy's Moon Shot

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Houston, Texas, 1962. In the midst of the Space Race, a young girl and her family listen to President John F. Kennedy give a speech at Rice University. Aligned with curriculum standards,… More →

Cover: Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream"

Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream"

Washington, D.C., 1963: Two brothers travel all day to hear Martin Luther King Jr. speak. Aligned with curriculum standards, these narrative-nonfiction books also highlight key 21st Century… More →

Cover: Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman?"

Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman?"

Akron, Ohio, 1851: A brother and sister listen to Sojourner Truth deliver her speech. Aligned with curriculum standards, these narrative-nonfiction books also highlight key 21st Century… More →

Cover: Susan B. Anthony's Women's Right to Suffrage Speech

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Monroe County, New York, 1873: Confused on what to think about the suffragist movement, a young boy stops at one of Susan B. Anthony's pre-trial speeches. Aligned with curriculum standards,… More →

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40 famous persuasive speeches you need to hear.

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Across eras of calamity and peace in our world’s history, a great many leaders, writers, politicians, theorists, scientists, activists and other revolutionaries have unveiled powerful rousing speeches in their bids for change. In reviewing the plethora of orators across tides of social, political and economic change, we found some truly rousing speeches that brought the world to their feet or to a startling, necessary halt. We’ve chosen 40 of the most impactful speeches we managed to find from agents of change all over the world – a diversity of political campaigns, genders, positionalities and periods of history. You’re sure to find at least a few speeches in this list which will capture you with the sheer power of their words and meaning!

1. I have a dream by MLK

“I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification – one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father’s died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!”

Unsurprisingly, Martin Luther King’s speech comes up top as the most inspiring speech of all time, especially given the harrowing conditions of African Americans in America at the time. In the post-abolition era when slavery was outlawed constitutionally, African Americans experienced an intense period of backlash from white supremacists who supported slavery where various institutional means were sought to subordinate African American people to positions similar to that of the slavery era. This later came to be known as the times of Jim Crow and segregation, which Martin Luther King powerfully voiced his vision for a day when racial discrimination would be a mere figment, where equality would reign.

2. Tilbury Speech by Queen Elizabeth I

“My loving people, We have been persuaded by some that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit our selves to armed multitudes, for fear of treachery; but I assure you I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people. Let tyrants fear. I have always so behaved myself that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good-will of my subjects; and therefore I am come amongst you, as you see, at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live and die amongst you all; to lay down for my God, and for my kingdom, and my people, my honour and my blood, even in the dust. I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm; to which rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field. I know already, for your forwardness you have deserved rewards and crowns; and We do assure you on a word of a prince, they shall be duly paid. In the mean time, my lieutenant general shall be in my stead, than whom never prince commanded a more noble or worthy subject; not doubting but by your obedience to my general, by your concord in the camp, and your valour in the field, we shall shortly have a famous victory over these enemies of my God, of my kingdom, and of my people.”

While at war with Spain, Queen Elizabeth I was most renowned for her noble speech rallying the English troops against their comparatively formidable opponent. Using brilliant rhetorical devices like metonymy, meronymy, and other potent metaphors, she voiced her deeply-held commitment as a leader to the battle against the Spanish Armada – convincing the English army to keep holding their ground and upholding the sacrifice of war for the good of their people. Eventually against all odds, she led England to victory despite their underdog status in the conflict with her confident and masterful oratory.

3. Woodrow Wilson, address to Congress (April 2, 1917)

“The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them. Just because we fight without rancor and without selfish object, seeking nothing for ourselves but what we shall wish to share with all free peoples, we shall, I feel confident, conduct our operations as belligerents without passion and ourselves observe with proud punctilio the principles of right and of fair play we profess to be fighting for. … It will be all the easier for us to conduct ourselves as belligerents in a high spirit of right and fairness because we act without animus, not in enmity toward a people or with the desire to bring any injury or disadvantage upon them, but only in armed opposition to an irresponsible government which has thrown aside all considerations of humanity and of right and is running amuck. We are, let me say again, the sincere friends of the German people, and shall desire nothing so much as the early reestablishment of intimate relations of mutual advantage between us—however hard it may be for them, for the time being, to believe that this is spoken from our hearts. We have borne with their present government through all these bitter months because of that friendship—exercising a patience and forbearance which would otherwise have been impossible. We shall, happily, still have an opportunity to prove that friendship in our daily attitude and actions toward the millions of men and women of German birth and native sympathy who live among us and share our life, and we shall be proud to prove it toward all who are in fact loyal to their neighbors and to the government in the hour of test. They are, most of them, as true and loyal Americans as if they had never known any other fealty or allegiance. They will be prompt to stand with us in rebuking and restraining the few who may be of a different mind and purpose. If there should be disloyalty, it will be dealt with with a firm hand of stern repression; but, if it lifts its head at all, it will lift it only here and there and without countenance except from a lawless and malignant few. It is a distressing and oppressive duty, gentlemen of the Congress, which I have performed in thus addressing you. There are, it may be, many months of fiery trial and sacrifice ahead of us. It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance. But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts—for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free. To such a task we can dedicate our lives and our fortunes, everything that we are and everything that we have, with the pride of those who know that the day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured. God helping her, she can do no other.”

On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson of the USA delivered his address to Congress, calling for declaration of war against what was at the time, a belligerent and aggressive Germany in WWI. Despite his isolationism and anti-war position earlier in his tenure as president, he convinced Congress that America had a moral duty to the world to step out of their neutral observer status into an active role of world leadership and stewardship in order to liberate attacked nations from their German aggressors. The idealistic values he preached in his speech left an indelible imprint upon the American spirit and self-conception, forming the moral basis for the country’s people and aspirational visions to this very day.

4. Ain’t I A Woman by Sojourner Truth

“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman? … If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.”

Hailing from a background of slavery and oppression, Sojourner Truth was one of the most revolutionary advocates for women’s human rights in the 1800s. In spite of the New York Anti-Slavery Law of 1827, her slavemaster refused to free her. As such, she fled, became an itinerant preacher and leading figure in the anti-slavery movement. By the 1850s, she became involved in the women’s rights movement as well. At the 1851 Women’s Rights Convention held in Akron, Ohio, she delivered her illuminating, forceful speech against discrimination of women and African Americans in the post-Civil War era, entrenching her status as one of the most revolutionary abolitionists and women’s rights activists across history.

5. The Gettsyburg Address by Abraham Lincoln

“Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

President Abraham Lincoln had left the most lasting legacy upon American history for good reason, as one of the presidents with the moral courage to denounce slavery for the national atrocity it was. However, more difficult than standing up for the anti-slavery cause was the task of unifying the country post-abolition despite the looming shadows of a time when white Americans could own and subjugate slaves with impunity over the thousands of Americans who stood for liberation of African Americans from discrimination. He urged Americans to remember their common roots, heritage and the importance of “charity for all”, to ensure a “just and lasting peace” among within the country despite throes of racial division and self-determination.

6. Woman’s Rights to the Suffrage by Susan B Anthony

“For any State to make sex a qualification that must ever result in the disfranchisement of one entire half of the people is to pass a bill of attainder, or an ex post facto law, and is therefore a violation of the supreme law of the land. By it the blessings of liberty are for ever withheld from women and their female posterity. To them this government has no just powers derived from the consent of the governed. To them this government is not a democracy. It is not a republic. It is an odious aristocracy; a hateful oligarchy of sex; the most hateful aristocracy ever established on the face of the globe; an oligarchy of wealth, where the right govern the poor. An oligarchy of learning, where the educated govern the ignorant, or even an oligarchy of race, where the Saxon rules the African, might be endured; but this oligarchy of sex, which makes father, brothers, husband, sons, the oligarchs over the mother and sisters, the wife and daughters of every household–which ordains all men sovereigns, all women subjects, carries dissension, discord and rebellion into every home of the nation. Webster, Worcester and Bouvier all define a citizen to be a person in the United States, entitled to vote and hold office. The only question left to be settled now is: Are women persons? And I hardly believe any of our opponents will have the hardihood to say they are not. Being persons, then, women are citizens; and no State has a right to make any law, or to enforce any old law, that shall abridge their privileges or immunities. Hence, every discrimination against women in the constitutions and laws of the several States is today null and void, precisely as in every one against Negroes.”

Susan B. Anthony was a pivotal leader in the women’s suffrage movement who helped to found the National Woman Suffrage Association with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and fight for the constitutional right for women to vote. She courageously and relentlessly advocated for women’s rights, giving speeches all over the USA to convince people of women’s human rights to choice and the ballot. She is most well known for her act of righteous rebellion in 1872 when she voted in the presidential election illegally, for which she was arrested and tried unsuccessfully. She refused to pay the $100 fine in a bid to reject the demands of the American system she denounced as a ‘hateful oligarchy of sex’, sparking change with her righteous oratory and inspiring many others in the women’s suffrage movement within and beyond America.

7. Vladimir Lenin’s Speech at an International Meeting in Berne, February 8, 1916

“It may sound incredible, especially to Swiss comrades, but it is nevertheless true that in Russia, also, not only bloody tsarism, not only the capitalists, but also a section of the so-called or ex-Socialists say that Russia is fighting a “war of defence,” that Russia is only fighting against German invasion. The whole world knows, however, that for decades tsarism has been oppressing more than a hundred million people belonging to other nationalities in Russia; that for decades Russia has been pursuing a predatory policy towards China, Persia, Armenia and Galicia. Neither Russia, nor Germany, nor any other Great Power has the right to claim that it is waging a “war of defence”; all the Great Powers are waging an imperialist, capitalist war, a predatory war, a war for the oppression of small and foreign nations, a war for the sake of the profits of the capitalists, who are coining golden profits amounting to billions out of the appalling sufferings of the masses, out of the blood of the proletariat. … This again shows you, comrades, that in all countries of the world real preparations are being made to rally the forces of the working class. The horrors of war and the sufferings of the people are incredible. But we must not, and we have no reason whatever, to view the future with despair. The millions of victims who will fall in the war, and as a consequence of the war, will not fall in vain. The millions who are starving, the millions who are sacrificing their lives in the trenches, are not only suffering, they are also gathering strength, are pondering over the real cause of the war, are becoming more determined and are acquiring a clearer revolutionary understanding. Rising discontent of the masses, growing ferment, strikes, demonstrations, protests against the war—all this is taking place in all countries of the world. And this is the guarantee that the European War will be followed by the proletarian revolution against capitalism”

Vladimir Lenin remains to this day one of the most lauded communist revolutionaries in the world who brought the dangers of imperialism and capitalism to light with his rousing speeches condemning capitalist structures of power which inevitably enslave people to lives of misery and class stratification. In his genuine passion for the rights of the working class, he urged fellow comrades to turn the “imperialist war” into a “civil” or class war of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie. He encouraged the development of new revolutionary socialist organisations, solidarity across places in society so people could unite against their capitalist overlords, and criticised nationalism for its divisive effect on the socialist movement. In this speech especially, he lambasts “bloody Tsarism” for its oppression of millions of people of other nationalities in Russia, calling for the working class people to revolt against the Tsarist authority for the proletariat revolution to succeed and liberate them from class oppression.

8. I Have A Dream Speech by Mary Wollstonecraft

“If, I say, for I would not impress by declamation when Reason offers her sober light, if they be really capable of acting like rational creatures, let them not be treated like slaves; or, like the brutes who are dependent on the reason of man, when they associate with him; but cultivate their minds, give them the salutary, sublime curb of principle, and let them attain conscious dignity by feeling themselves only dependent on God. Teach them, in common with man, to submit to necessity, instead of giving, to render them more pleasing, a sex to morals. Further, should experience prove that they cannot attain the same degree of strength of mind, perseverance, and fortitude, let their virtues be the same in kind, though they may vainly struggle for the same degree; and the superiority of man will be equally clear, if not clearer; and truth, as it is a simple principle, which admits of no modification, would be common to both. Nay, the order of society as it is at present regulated would not be inverted, for woman would then only have the rank that reason assigned her, and arts could not be practised to bring the balance even, much less to turn it.”

In her vindication of the rights of women, Mary Wollstonecraft was one of the pioneers of the feminist movement back in 1792 who not only theorised and advocated revolutionarily, but gave speeches that voiced these challenges against a dominantly sexist society intent on classifying women as irrational less-than-human creatures to be enslaved as they were. In this landmark speech, she pronounces her ‘dream’ of a day when women would be treated as the rational, deserving humans they are, who are equal to man in strength and capability. With this speech setting an effective precedent for her call to equalize women before the law, she also went on to champion the provision of equal educational opportunities to women and girls, and persuasively argued against the patriarchal gender norms which prevented women from finding their own lot in life through their being locked into traditional institutions of marriage and motherhood against their will.

9. First Inaugural Speech by Franklin D Roosevelt

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days. … More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment. Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. There are many ways in which it can be helped, but it can never be helped merely by talking about it. We must act and act quickly. … I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures that a stricken Nation in the midst of a stricken world may require. These measures, or such other measures as the Congress may build out of its experience and wisdom, I shall seek, within my constitutional authority, to bring to speedy adoption. But in the event that the Congress shall fail to take one of these two courses, and in the event that the national emergency is still critical, I shall not evade the clear course of duty that will then confront me. I shall ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis — broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.”

Roosevelt’s famous inaugural speech was delivered in the midst of a period of immense tension and strain under the Great Depression, where he highlighted the need for ‘quick action’ by Congress to prepare for government expansion in his pursuit of reforms to lift the American people out of devastating poverty. In a landslide victory, he certainly consolidated the hopes and will of the American people through this compelling speech.

10. The Hypocrisy of American Slavery by Frederick Douglass

“What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mock; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy – a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour. Go search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.”

On 4 July 1852, Frederick Douglass gave this speech in Rochester, New York, highlighting the hypocrisy of celebrating freedom while slavery continues. He exposed the ‘revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy’ of slavery which had gone unabolished amidst the comparatively obscene celebration of independence and liberty with his potent speech and passion for the anti-abolition cause. After escaping from slavery, he went on to become a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York with his oratory and incisive antislavery writings. To this day, his fierce activism and devotion to exposing virulent racism for what it was has left a lasting legacy upon pro-Black social movements and the overall sociopolitical landscape of America.

11. Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

“You may write me down in history With your bitter, twisted lies, You may trod me in the very dirt But still, like dust, I’ll rise. Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom? ’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells Pumping in my living room. Just like moons and like suns, With the certainty of tides, Just like hopes springing high, Still I’ll rise. Did you want to see me broken? Bowed head and lowered eyes? Shoulders falling down like teardrops, Weakened by my soulful cries? Does my haughtiness offend you? Don’t you take it awful hard ’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines Diggin’ in my own backyard. You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I’ll rise. Does my sexiness upset you? Does it come as a surprise That I dance like I’ve got diamonds At the meeting of my thighs? Out of the huts of history’s shame I rise Up from a past that’s rooted in pain I rise I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide, Welling and swelling I bear in the tide. Leaving behind nights of terror and fear I rise Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear I rise Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise I rise I rise.”

With her iconic poem Still I Rise , Maya Angelou is well-known for uplifting fellow African American women through her empowering novels and poetry and her work as a civil rights activist. Every bit as lyrical on the page, her recitation of Still I Rise continues to give poetry audiences shivers all over the world, inspiring women of colour everywhere to keep the good faith in striving for equality and peace, while radically believing in and empowering themselves to be agents of change. A dramatic reading of the poem will easily showcase the self-belief, strength and punch that it packs in the last stanza on the power of resisting marginalization.

12. Their Finest Hour by Winston Churchill

“What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.””

In the darkest shadows cast by war, few leaders have been able to step up to the mantle and effectively unify millions of citizens for truly sacrificial causes. Winston Churchill was the extraordinary exception – lifting 1940 Britain out of the darkness with his hopeful, convicted rhetoric to galvanise the English amidst bleak, dreary days of war and loss. Through Britain’s standalone position in WWII against the Nazis, he left his legacy by unifying the nation under shared sacrifices of the army and commemorating their courage.

13. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

“Life for both sexes – and I looked at them (through a restaurant window while waiting for my lunch to be served), shouldering their way along the pavement – is arduous, difficult, a perpetual struggle. It calls for gigantic courage and strength. More than anything, perhaps, creatures of illusion as we are, it calls for confidence in oneself. Without self-confidence we are babes in the cradle. And how can we generate this imponderable quality, which is yet so invaluable, most quickly? By thinking that other people are inferior to oneself. By feeling that one has some innate superiority – it may be wealth, or rank, a straight nose, or the portrait of a grandfather by Romney – for there is no end to the pathetic devices of the human imagination – over other people. Hence the enormous importance to a patriarch who has to conquer, who has to rule, of feeling that great numbers of people, half the human race indeed, are by nature inferior to himself. It must indeed be one of the great sources of his power….Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size. Without that power probably the earth would still be swamp and jungle. The glories of all our wars would be on the remains of mutton bones and bartering flints for sheepskins or whatever simple ornament took our unsophisticated taste. Supermen and Fingers of Destiny would never have existed. The Czar and the Kaiser would never have worn their crowns or lost them. Whatever may be their use in civilised societies, mirrors are essential to all violent and heroic action. That is why Napoleon and Mussolini both insist so emphatically upon the inferiority of women, for if they were not inferior, they would cease to enlarge. That serves to explain in part the necessity that women so often are to men. And it serves to explain how restless they are under her criticism; how impossible it is for her to say to them this book is bad, this picture is feeble, or whatever it may be, without giving far more pain and rousing far more anger than a man would do who gave the same criticism. For if she begins to tell the truth, the figure in the looking-glass shrinks; his fitness in life is diminished. How is he to go on giving judgment, civilising natives, making laws, writing books, dressing up and speechifying at banquets, unless he can see himself at breakfast and at dinner at least twice the size he really is?”

In this transformational speech , Virginia Woolf pronounces her vision that ‘a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction’. She calls out the years in which women have been deprived of their own space for individual development through being chained to traditional arrangements or men’s prescriptions – demanding ‘gigantic courage’ and ‘confidence in oneself’ to brave through the onerous struggle of creating change for women’s rights. With her steadfast, stolid rhetoric and radical theorization, she paved the way for many women’s rights activists and writers to forge their own paths against patriarchal authority.

14. Inaugural Address by John F Kennedy

“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility–I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it–and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man. Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”

For what is probably the most historically groundbreaking use of parallelism in speech across American history, President JFK placed the weighty task of ‘asking what one can do for their country’ onto the shoulders of each American citizen. Using an air of firmness in his rhetoric by declaring his commitment to his countrymen, he urges each American to do the same for the broader, noble ideal of freedom for all. With his crucial interrogation of a citizen’s moral duty to his nation, President JFK truly made history.

15. Atoms for Peace Speech by Dwight Eisenhower

“To pause there would be to confirm the hopeless finality of a belief that two atomic colossi are doomed malevolently to eye each other indefinitely across a trembling world. To stop there would be to accept helplessly the probability of civilization destroyed, the annihilation of the irreplaceable heritage of mankind handed down to us from generation to generation, and the condemnation of mankind to begin all over again the age-old struggle upward from savagery towards decency, and right, and justice. Surely no sane member of the human race could discover victory in such desolation. Could anyone wish his name to be coupled by history with such human degradation and destruction?Occasional pages of history do record the faces of the “great destroyers”, but the whole book of history reveals mankind’s never-ending quest for peace and mankind’s God-given capacity to build. It is with the book of history, and not with isolated pages, that the United States will ever wish to be identified. My country wants to be constructive,not destructive. It wants agreements, not wars, among nations. It wants itself to live in freedom and in the confidence that the peoples of every other nation enjoy equally the right of choosing their own way of life. So my country’s purpose is to help us to move out of the dark chamber of horrors into the light, to find a way by which the minds of men, the hopes of men, the souls of men everywhere, can move forward towards peace and happiness and well-being.”

On a possibility as frightful and tense as nuclear war, President Eisenhower managed to convey the gravity of the world’s plight in his measured and persuasive speech centred on the greater good of mankind. Using rhetorical devices such as the three-part paratactical syntax which most world leaders are fond of for ingraining their words in the minds of their audience, he centers the discourse of the atomic bomb on those affected by such a world-changing decision in ‘the minds, hopes and souls of men everywhere’ – effectively putting the vivid image of millions of people’s fates at stake in the minds of his audience. Being able to make a topic as heavy and fraught with moral conflict as this as eloquent as he did, Eisenhower definitely ranks among some of the most skilled orators to date.

16. The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action by Audre Lorde

“I was going to die, if not sooner then later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you. But for every real word spoken, for every attempt I had ever made to speak those truths for which I am still seeking, I had made contact with other women while we examined the words to fit a world in which we all believed, bridging our differences. What are the words you do not have yet? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? Perhaps for some of you here today, I am the face of one of your fears. Because I am a woman, because I am black, because I am myself, a black woman warrior poet doing my work, come to ask you, are you doing yours?”

Revolutionary writer, feminist and civil rights activist Audre Lorde first delivered this phenomenal speech at Lesbian and Literature panel of the Modern Language Association’s December 28, 1977 meeting, which went on to feature permanently in her writings for its sheer wisdom and truth. Her powerful writing and speech about living on the margins of society has enlightened millions of people discriminated across various intersections, confronting them with the reality that they must speak – since their ‘silence will not protect’ them from further marginalization. Through her illuminating words and oratory, she has reminded marginalized persons of the importance of their selfhood and the radical capacity for change they have in a world blighted by prejudice and division.

17. 1965 Cambridge Union Hall Speech by James Baldwin

“What is dangerous here is the turning away from – the turning away from – anything any white American says. The reason for the political hesitation, in spite of the Johnson landslide is that one has been betrayed by American politicians for so long. And I am a grown man and perhaps I can be reasoned with. I certainly hope I can be. But I don’t know, and neither does Martin Luther King, none of us know how to deal with those other people whom the white world has so long ignored, who don’t believe anything the white world says and don’t entirely believe anything I or Martin is saying. And one can’t blame them. You watch what has happened to them in less than twenty years.”

Baldwin’s invitation to the Cambridge Union Hall is best remembered for foregrounding the unflinching differences in white and African Americans’ ‘system of reality’ in everyday life. Raising uncomfortable truths about the insidious nature of racism post-civil war, he provides several nuggets of thought-provoking wisdom on the state of relations between the oppressed and their oppressors, and what is necessary to mediate such relations and destroy the exploitative thread of racist hatred. With great frankness, he admits to not having all the answers but provides hard-hitting wisdom on engagement to guide activists through confounding times nonetheless.

18. I Am Prepared to Die by Nelson Mandela

“Above all, My Lord, we want equal political rights, because without them our disabilities will be permanent. I know this sounds revolutionary to the whites in this country, because the majority of voters will be Africans. This makes the white man fear democracy. But this fear cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the only solution which will guarantee racial harmony and freedom for all. It is not true that the enfranchisement of all will result in racial domination. Political division, based on colour, is entirely artificial and, when it disappears, so will the domination of one colour group by another. The ANC has spent half a century fighting against racialism. When it triumphs as it certainly must, it will not change that policy. This then is what the ANC is fighting. Our struggle is a truly national one. It is a struggle of the African people, inspired by our own suffering and our own experience. It is a struggle for the right to live. During my lifetime I have dedicated my life 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 will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Apartheid is still considered one of these most devastating events of world history, and it would not have ended without the crucial effort and words of Nelson Mandela during his courageous political leadership. In this heartbreaking speech , he voices his utter devotion to the fight against institutionalised racism in African society – an ideal for which he was ‘prepared to die for’. Mandela continues to remind us today of his moral conviction in leading, wherein the world would likely to be a better place if all politicians had the same resolve and genuine commitment to human rights and the abolition of oppression as he did.

19. Critique on British Imperialism by General Aung San

“Do they form their observations by seeing the attendances at not very many cinemas and theatres of Rangoon? Do they judge this question of money circulation by paying a stray visit to a local bazaar? Do they know that cinemas and theatres are not true indicators, at least in Burma, of the people’s conditions? Do they know that there are many in this country who cannot think of going to these places by having to struggle for their bare existence from day to day? Do they know that those who nowadays patronise or frequent cinemas and theatres which exist only in Rangoon and a few big towns, belong generally to middle and upper classes and the very few of the many poor who can attend at all are doing so as a desperate form of relaxation just to make them forget their unsupportable existences for the while whatever may be the tomorrow that awaits them?”

Under British colonial rule, one of the most legendary nationalist leaders emerged from the ranks of the thousands of Burmese to boldly lead them towards independence, out of the exploitation and control under the British. General Aung San’s speech criticising British social, political and economic control of Burma continues to be scathing, articulate, and relevant – especially given his necessary goal of uniting the Burmese natives against their common oppressor. He successfully galvanised his people against the British, taking endless risks through nationalist speeches and demonstrations which gradually bore fruit in Burma’s independence.

20. Nobel Lecture by Mother Teresa

“I believe that we are not real social workers. We may be doing social work in the eyes of the people, but we are really contemplatives in the heart of the world. For we are touching the Body Of Christ 24 hours. We have 24 hours in this presence, and so you and I. You too try to bring that presence of God in your family, for the family that prays together stays together. And I think that we in our family don’t need bombs and guns, to destroy to bring peace–just get together, love one another, bring that peace, that joy, that strength of presence of each other in the home. And we will be able to overcome all the evil that is in the world. There is so much suffering, so much hatred, so much misery, and we with our prayer, with our sacrifice are beginning at home. Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the action that we do. It is to God Almighty–how much we do it does not matter, because He is infinite, but how much love we put in that action. How much we do to Him in the person that we are serving.”

In contemporary culture, most people understand Mother Teresa to be the epitome of compassion and kindness. However, if one were to look closer at her speeches from the past, one would discover not merely her altruistic contributions, but her keen heart for social justice and the downtrodden. She wisely and gracefully remarks that ‘love begins at home’ from the individual actions of each person within their private lives, which accumulate into a life of goodness and charity. For this, her speeches served not just consolatory value or momentary relevance, as they still inform the present on how we can live lives worth living.

21. June 9 Speech to Martial Law Units by Deng Xiaoping

“This army still maintains the traditions of our old Red Army. What they crossed this time was in the true sense of the expression a political barrier, a threshold of life and death. This was not easy. This shows that the People’s Army is truly a great wall of iron and steel of the party and state. This shows that no matter how heavy our losses, the army, under the leadership of the party, will always remain the defender of the country, the defender of socialism, and the defender of the public interest. They are a most lovable people. At the same time, we should never forget how cruel our enemies are. We should have not one bit of forgiveness for them. The fact that this incident broke out as it did is very worthy of our pondering. It prompts us cool-headedly to consider the past and the future. Perhaps this bad thing will enable us to go ahead with reform and the open policy at a steadier and better — even a faster — pace, more speedily correct our mistakes, and better develop our strong points.”

Mere days before the 4 June 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising, Chinese Communist Party leader Deng Xiaoping sat with six party elders (senior officials) and the three remaining members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the paramount decision-making body in China’s government. The meeting was organised to discuss the best course of action for restoring social and political order to China, given the sweeping economic reforms that had taken place in the past decade that inevitably resulted in some social resistance from the populace. Deng then gave this astute and well-regarded speech, outlining the political complexities in shutting down student protests given the context of reforms encouraging economic liberalization already taking place, as aligned with the students’ desires. It may not be the most rousing or inflammatory of speeches, but it was certainly persuasive in voicing the importance of taking a strong stand for the economic reforms Deng was implementing to benefit Chinese citizens in the long run. Today, China is an economic superpower, far from its war-torn developing country status before Deng’s leadership – thanks to his foresight in ensuring political stability would allow China to enjoy the fruits of the massive changes they adapted to.

22. Freedom or Death by Emmeline Pankhurst

“You won your freedom in America when you had the revolution, by bloodshed, by sacrificing human life. You won the civil war by the sacrifice of human life when you decided to emancipate the negro. 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. Now whether you approve of us or whether you do not, you must see that we have brought the question of women’s suffrage into a position where it is of first rate importance, where it can be ignored no longer. Even the most hardened politician will hesitate to take upon himself directly the responsibility of sacrificing the lives of women of undoubted honour, of undoubted earnestness of purpose. That is the political situation as I lay it before you today.”

In 1913 after Suffragette Emily Davison stepped in front of King George V’s horse at the Epsom Derby and suffered fatal injuries, Emmeline Pankhurst delivered her speech to Connecticut as a call to action for people to support the suffragette movement. Her fortitude in delivering such a sobering speech on the state of women’s rights is worth remembering for its invaluable impact and contributions to the rights we enjoy in today’s world.

23. Quit India by Mahatma Gandhi

“We shall either free India or die in the attempt; we shall not live to see the perpetuation of our slavery. Every true Congressman or woman will join the struggle with an inflexible determination not to remain alive to see the country in bondage and slavery. Let that be your pledge. Keep jails out of your consideration. If the Government keep me free, I will not put on the Government the strain of maintaining a large number of prisoners at a time, when it is in trouble. Let every man and woman live every moment of his or her life hereafter in the consciousness that he or she eats or lives for achieving freedom and will die, if need be, to attain that goal. Take a pledge, with God and your own conscience as witness, that you will no longer rest till freedom is achieved and will be prepared to lay down your lives in the attempt to achieve it. He who loses his life will gain it; he who will seek to save it shall lose it. Freedom is not for the coward or the faint-hearted.”

Naturally, the revolutionary activist Gandhi had to appear in this list for his impassioned anti-colonial speeches which rallied Indians towards independence. Famous for leading non-violent demonstrations, his speeches were a key element in gathering Indians of all backgrounds together for the common cause of eliminating their colonial masters. His speeches were resolute, eloquent, and courageous, inspiring the hope and admiration of many not just within India, but around the world.

24. 1974 National Book Award Speech by Adrienne Rich, Alice Walker, Audre Lorde

“The statement I am going to read was prepared by three of the women nominated for the National Book Award for poetry, with the agreement that it would be read by whichever of us, if any, was chosen.We, Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, and Alice Walker, together accept this award in the name of all the women whose voices have gone and still go unheard in a patriarchal world, and in the name of those who, like us, have been tolerated as token women in this culture, often at great cost and in great pain. We believe that we can enrich ourselves more in supporting and giving to each other than by competing against each other; and that poetry—if it is poetry—exists in a realm beyond ranking and comparison. We symbolically join together here in refusing the terms of patriarchal competition and declaring that we will share this prize among us, to be used as best we can for women. We appreciate the good faith of the judges for this award, but none of us could accept this money for herself, nor could she let go unquestioned the terms on which poets are given or denied honor and livelihood in this world, especially when they are women. We dedicate this occasion to the struggle for self-determination of all women, of every color, identification, or derived class: the poet, the housewife, the lesbian, the mathematician, the mother, the dishwasher, the pregnant teen-ager, the teacher, the grandmother, the prostitute, the philosopher, the waitress, the women who will understand what we are doing here and those who will not understand yet; the silent women whose voices have been denied us, the articulate women who have given us strength to do our work.”

Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, and Alice Walker wrote this joint speech to be delivered by Adrienne Rich at the 1974 National Book Awards, based on their suspicions that the first few African American lesbian women to be nominated for the awards would be snubbed in favour of a white woman nominee. Their suspicions were confirmed, and Adrienne Rich delivered this socially significant speech in solidarity with her fellow nominees, upholding the voices of the ‘silent women whose voices have been denied’.

25. Speech to 20th Congress of the CPSU by Nikita Khruschev

“Considering the question of the cult of an individual, we must first of all show everyone what harm this caused to the interests of our Party. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin had always stressed the Party’s role and significance in the direction of the socialist government of workers and peasants; he saw in this the chief precondition for a successful building of socialism in our country. Pointing to the great responsibility of the Bolshevik Party, as ruling Party of the Soviet state, Lenin called for the most meticulous observance of all norms of Party life; he called for the realization of the principles of collegiality in the direction of the Party and the state. Collegiality of leadership flows from the very nature of our Party, a Party built on the principles of democratic centralism. “This means,” said Lenin, “that all Party matters are accomplished by all Party members – directly or through representatives – who, without any exceptions, are subject to the same rules; in addition, all administrative members, all directing collegia, all holders of Party positions are elective, they must account for their activities and are recallable.””

This speech is possibly the most famed Russian speech for its status as a ‘secret’ speech delivered only to the CPSU at the time, which was eventually revealed to the public. Given the unchallenged political legacy and cult of personality which Stalin left in the Soviet Union, Nikita Khruschev’s speech condemning the authoritarian means Stalin had resorted to to consolidate power as un-socialist was an important mark in Russian history.

26. The Struggle for Human Rights by Eleanor Roosevelt

“It is my belief, and I am sure it is also yours, that the struggle for democracy and freedom is a critical struggle, for their preservation is essential to the great objective of the United Nations to maintain international peace and security. Among free men the end cannot justify the means. We know the patterns of totalitarianism — the single political party, the control of schools, press, radio, the arts, the sciences, and the church to support autocratic authority; these are the age-old patterns against which men have struggled for three thousand years. These are the signs of reaction, retreat, and retrogression. The United Nations must hold fast to the heritage of freedom won by the struggle of its people; it must help us to pass it on to generations to come. The development of the ideal of freedom and its translation into the everyday life of the people in great areas of the earth is the product of the efforts of many peoples. It is the fruit of a long tradition of vigorous thinking and courageous action. No one race and on one people can claim to have done all the work to achieve greater dignity for human beings and great freedom to develop human personality. In each generation and in each country there must be a continuation of the struggle and new steps forward must be taken since this is preeminently a field in which to stand still is to retreat.”

Eleanor Roosevelt has been among the most well-loved First Ladies for good reason – her eloquence and gravitas in delivering every speech convinced everyone of her suitability for the oval office. In this determined and articulate speech , she outlines the fundamental values that form the bedrock of democracy, urging the rest of the world to uphold human rights regardless of national ideology and interests.

27. The Ballot or The Bullet by Malcolm X

“And in this manner, the organizations will increase in number and in quantity and in quality, and by August, it is then our intention to have a black nationalist convention which will consist of delegates from all over the country who are interested in the political, economic and social philosophy of black nationalism. After these delegates convene, we will hold a seminar; we will hold discussions; we will listen to everyone. We want to hear new ideas and new solutions and new answers. And at that time, if we see fit then to form a black nationalist party, we’ll form a black nationalist party. If it’s necessary to form a black nationalist army, we’ll form a black nationalist army. It’ll be the ballot or the bullet. It’ll be liberty or it’ll be death.”

Inarguably, the revolutionary impact Malcolm X’s fearless oratory had was substantial in his time as a radical anti-racist civil rights activist. His speeches’ emancipatory potential put forth his ‘theory of rhetorical action’ where he urges Black Americans to employ both the ballot and the bullet, strategically without being dependent on the other should the conditions of oppression change. A crucial leader in the fight for civil rights, he opened the eyes of thousands of Black Americans, politicising and convincing them of the necessity of fighting for their democratic rights against white supremacists.

28. Living the Revolution by Gloria Steinem

“The challenge to all of us, and to you men and women who are graduating today, is to live a revolution, not to die for one. There has been too much killing, and the weapons are now far too terrible. This revolution has to change consciousness, to upset the injustice of our current hierarchy by refusing to honor it, and to live a life that enforces a new social justice. Because the truth is none of us can be liberated if other groups are not.”

In an unexpected commencement speech delivered at Vassar College in 1970, Gloria Steinem boldly makes a call to action on behalf of marginalized groups in need of liberation to newly graduated students. She proclaimed it the year of Women’s Liberation and forcefully highlighted the need for a social revolution to ‘upset the injustice of the current hierarchy’ in favour of human rights – echoing the hard-hitting motto on social justice, ‘until all of us are free, none of us are free’.

29. The Last Words of Harvey Milk by Harvey Milk

“I cannot prevent some people from feeling angry and frustrated and mad in response to my death, but I hope they will take the frustration and madness and instead of demonstrating or anything of that type, I would hope that they would take the power and I would hope that five, ten, one hundred, a thousand would rise. I would like to see every gay lawyer, every gay architect come out, stand up and let the world know. That would do more to end prejudice overnight than anybody could imagine. I urge them to do that, urge them to come out. Only that way will we start to achieve our rights. … All I ask is for the movement to continue, and if a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door…”

As the first openly gay elected official in the history of California, Harvey Milk’s entire political candidature was in itself a radical statement against the homophobic status quo at the time. Given the dangerous times he was in as an openly gay man, he anticipated that he would be assassinated eventually in his political career. As such, these are some of his last words which show the utter devotion he had to campaigning against homophobia while representing the American people, voicing his heartbreaking wish for the bullet that would eventually kill him to ‘destroy every closet door’.

30. Black Power Address at UC Berkeley by Stokely Carmichael

“Now we are now engaged in a psychological struggle in this country, and that is whether or not black people will have the right to use the words they want to use without white people giving their sanction to it; and that we maintain, whether they like it or not, we gonna use the word “Black Power” — and let them address themselves to that; but that we are not going to wait for white people to sanction Black Power. We’re tired waiting; every time black people move in this country, they’re forced to defend their position before they move. It’s time that the people who are supposed to be defending their position do that. That’s white people. They ought to start defending themselves as to why they have oppressed and exploited us.”

A forceful and impressive orator, Stokely Carmichael was among those at the forefront of the civil rights movement, who was a vigorous socialist organizer as well. He led the Black Power movement wherein he gave this urgent, influential speech that propelled Black Americans forward in their fight for constitutional rights in the 1960s.

31. Speech on Vietnam by Lyndon Johnson

“The true peace-keepers are those men who stand out there on the DMZ at this very hour, taking the worst that the enemy can give. The true peace-keepers are the soldiers who are breaking the terrorist’s grip around the villages of Vietnam—the civilians who are bringing medical care and food and education to people who have already suffered a generation of war. And so I report to you that we are going to continue to press forward. Two things we must do. Two things we shall do. First, we must not mislead the enemy. Let him not think that debate and dissent will produce wavering and withdrawal. For I can assure you they won’t. Let him not think that protests will produce surrender. Because they won’t. Let him not think that he will wait us out. For he won’t. Second, we will provide all that our brave men require to do the job that must be done. And that job is going to be done. These gallant men have our prayers-have our thanks—have our heart-felt praise—and our deepest gratitude. Let the world know that the keepers of peace will endure through every trial—and that with the full backing of their countrymen, they are going to prevail.”

During some of the most harrowing periods of human history, the Vietnam War, American soldiers were getting soundly defeated by the Vietnamese in guerrilla warfare. President Lyndon Johnson then issued this dignified, consolatory speech to encourage patriotism and support for the soldiers putting their lives on the line for the nation.

32. A Whisper of AIDS by Mary Fisher

“We may take refuge in our stereotypes, but we cannot hide there long, because HIV asks only one thing of those it attacks. Are you human? And this is the right question. Are you human? Because people with HIV have not entered some alien state of being. They are human. They have not earned cruelty, and they do not deserve meanness. They don’t benefit from being isolated or treated as outcasts. Each of them is exactly what God made: a person; not evil, deserving of our judgment; not victims, longing for our pity ­­ people, ready for  support and worthy of compassion. We must be consistent if we are to be believed. We cannot love justice and ignore prejudice, love our children and fear to teach them. Whatever our role as parent or policymaker, we must act as eloquently as we speak ­­ else we have no integrity. My call to the nation is a plea for awareness. If you believe you are safe, you are in danger. Because I was not hemophiliac, I was not at risk. Because I was not gay, I was not at risk. Because I did not inject drugs, I was not at risk. The lesson history teaches is this: If you believe you are safe, you are at risk. If you do not see this killer stalking your children, look again. There is no family or community, no race or religion, no place left in America that is safe. Until we genuinely embrace this message, we are a nation at risk.”

Back when AIDS research was still undeveloped, the stigma of contracting HIV was even more immense than it is today. A celebrated artist, author and speaker, Mary Fisher became an outspoken activist for those with HIV/AIDS, persuading people to extend compassion to the population with HIV instead of stigmatizing them – as injustice has a way of coming around to people eventually. Her bold act of speaking out for the community regardless of the way they contracted the disease, their sexual orientation or social group, was an influential move in advancing the human rights of those with HIV and spreading awareness on the discrimination they face.

33. Freedom from Fear by Aung San Suu Kyi

“The quintessential revolution is that of the spirit, born of an intellectual conviction of the need for change in those mental attitudes and values which shape the course of a nation’s development. A revolution which aims merely at changing official policies and institutions with a view to an improvement in material conditions has little chance of genuine success. Without a revolution of the spirit, the forces which produced the iniquities of the old order would continue to be operative, posing a constant threat to the process of reform and regeneration. It is not enough merely to call for freedom, democracy and human rights. There has to be a united determination to persevere in the struggle, to make sacrifices in the name of enduring truths, to resist the corrupting influences of desire, ill will, ignorance and fear. Saints, it has been said, are the sinners who go on trying. So free men are the oppressed who go on trying and who in the process make themselves fit to bear the responsibilities and to uphold the disciplines which will maintain a free society. Among the basic freedoms to which men aspire that their lives might be full and uncramped, freedom from fear stands out as both a means and an end. A people who would build a nation in which strong, democratic institutions are firmly established as a guarantee against state-induced power must first learn to liberate their own minds from apathy and fear.”

Famous for her resoluteness and fortitude in campaigning for democracy in Burma despite being put under house arrest by the military government, Aung San Suu Kyi’s speeches have been widely touted as inspirational. In this renowned speech of hers, she delivers a potent message to Burmese to ‘liberate their minds from apathy and fear’ in the struggle for freedom and human rights in the country. To this day, she continues to tirelessly champion the welfare and freedom of Burmese in a state still overcome by vestiges of authoritarian rule.

34. This Is Water by David Foster Wallace

“Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the centre of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving…. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day. That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.”

Esteemed writer David Foster Wallace gave a remarkably casual yet wise commencement speech at Kenyon College in 2005 on the importance of learning to think beyond attaining a formal education. He encouraged hundreds of students to develop freedom of thought, a heart of sacrificial care for those in need of justice, and a consciousness that would serve them in discerning the right choices to make within a status quo that is easy to fall in line with. His captivating speech on what it meant to truly be ‘educated’ tugged at the hearts of many young and critical minds striving to achieve their dreams and change the world.

35. Questioning the Universe by Stephen Hawking

“This brings me to the last of the big questions: the future of the human race. If we are the only intelligent beings in the galaxy, we should make sure we survive and continue. But we are entering an increasingly dangerous period of our history. Our population and our use of the finite resources of planet Earth are growing exponentially, along with our technical ability to change the environment for good or ill. But our genetic code still carries the selfish and aggressive instincts that were of survival advantage in the past. It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand or million. Our only chance of long-term survival is not to remain inward-looking on planet Earth, but to spread out into space. The answers to these big questions show that we have made remarkable progress in the last hundred years. But if we want to continue beyond the next hundred years, our future is in space. That is why I am in favor of manned — or should I say, personned — space flight.”

Extraordinary theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author Stephen Hawking was a considerable influence upon modern physics and scientific research at large, inspiring people regardless of physical ability to aspire towards expanding knowledge in the world. In his speech on Questioning the Universe, he speaks of the emerging currents and issues in the scientific world like that of outer space, raising and answering big questions that have stumped great thinkers for years.

36. 2008 Democratic National Convention Speech by Michelle Obama

“I stand here today at the crosscurrents of that history — knowing that my piece of the American dream is a blessing hard won by those who came before me. All of them driven by the same conviction that drove my dad to get up an hour early each day to painstakingly dress himself for work. The same conviction that drives the men and women I’ve met all across this country: People who work the day shift, kiss their kids goodnight, and head out for the night shift — without disappointment, without regret — that goodnight kiss a reminder of everything they’re working for. The military families who say grace each night with an empty seat at the table. The servicemen and women who love this country so much, they leave those they love most to defend it. The young people across America serving our communities — teaching children, cleaning up neighborhoods, caring for the least among us each and every day. People like Hillary Clinton, who put those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, so that our daughters — and sons — can dream a little bigger and aim a little higher. People like Joe Biden, who’s never forgotten where he came from and never stopped fighting for folks who work long hours and face long odds and need someone on their side again. All of us driven by a simple belief that the world as it is just won’t do — that we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be. That is the thread that connects our hearts. That is the thread that runs through my journey and Barack’s journey and so many other improbable journeys that have brought us here tonight, where the current of history meets this new tide of hope. That is why I love this country.”

Ever the favourite modern First Lady of America, Michelle Obama has delivered an abundance of iconic speeches in her political capacity, never forgetting to foreground the indomitable human spirit embodied in American citizens’ everyday lives and efforts towards a better world. The Obamas might just have been the most articulate couple of rhetoricians of their time, making waves as the first African American president and First Lady while introducing important policies in their period of governance.

37. The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

“I’m not talking about blind optimism here — the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don’t think about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about something more substantial. It’s the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker’s son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too. Hope — Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope! In the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation. A belief in things not seen. A belief that there are better days ahead.”

Now published into a book, Barack Obama’s heart-capturing personal story of transformational hope was first delivered as a speech on the merits of patriotic optimism and determination put to the mission of concrete change. He has come to be known as one of the most favoured and inspiring presidents in American history, and arguably the most skilled orators ever.

38. “Be Your Own Story” by Toni Morrison

“But I’m not going to talk anymore about the future because I’m hesitant to describe or predict because I’m not even certain that it exists. That is to say, I’m not certain that somehow, perhaps, a burgeoning ménage a trois of political interests, corporate interests and military interests will not prevail and literally annihilate an inhabitable, humane future. Because I don’t think we can any longer rely on separation of powers, free speech, religious tolerance or unchallengeable civil liberties as a matter of course. That is, not while finite humans in the flux of time make decisions of infinite damage. Not while finite humans make infinite claims of virtue and unassailable power that are beyond their competence, if not their reach. So, no happy talk about the future. … Because the past is already in debt to the mismanaged present. And besides, contrary to what you may have heard or learned, the past is not done and it is not over, it’s still in process, which is another way of saying that when it’s critiqued, analyzed, it yields new information about itself. The past is already changing as it is being reexamined, as it is being listened to for deeper resonances. Actually it can be more liberating than any imagined future if you are willing to identify its evasions, its distortions, its lies, and are willing to unleash its secrets.”

Venerated author and professor Toni Morrison delivered an impressively articulate speech at Wellesley College in 2004 to new graduates, bucking the trend by discussing the importance of the past in informing current and future ways of living. With her brilliance and eloquence, she blew the crowd away and renewed in them the capacity for reflection upon using the past as a talisman to guide oneself along the journey of life.

39. Nobel Speech by Malala Yousafzai

“Dear brothers and sisters, the so-called world of adults may understand it, but we children don’t. Why is it that countries which we call “strong” are so powerful in creating wars but so weak in bringing peace? Why is it that giving guns is so easy but giving books is so hard? Why is it that making tanks is so easy, but building schools is so difficult? As we are living in the modern age, the 21st century and we all believe that nothing is impossible. We can reach the moon and maybe soon will land on Mars. Then, in this, the 21st century, we must be determined that our dream of quality education for all will also come true. So let us bring equality, justice and peace for all. Not just the politicians and the world leaders, we all need to contribute. Me. You. It is our duty. So we must work … and not wait. I call upon my fellow children to stand up around the world. Dear sisters and brothers, let us become the first generation to decide to be the last. The empty classrooms, the lost childhoods, wasted potential-let these things end with us.”

At a mere 16 years of age, Malala Yousafzai gave a speech on the severity of the state of human rights across the world, and wowed the world with her passion for justice at her tender age. She displayed tenacity and fearlessness speaking about her survival of an assassination attempt for her activism for gender equality in the field of education. A model of courage to us all, her speech remains an essential one in the fight for human rights in the 21st century.

40. Final Commencement Speech by Michelle Obama

“If you are a person of faith, know that religious diversity is a great American tradition, too. In fact, that’s why people first came to this country — to worship freely. And whether you are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh — these religions are teaching our young people about justice, and compassion, and honesty. So I want our young people to continue to learn and practice those values with pride. You see, our glorious diversity — our diversities of faiths and colors and creeds — that is not a threat to who we are, it makes us who we are. So the young people here and the young people out there: Do not ever let anyone make you feel like you don’t matter, or like you don’t have a place in our American story — because you do. And you have a right to be exactly who you are. But I also want to be very clear: This right isn’t just handed to you. No, this right has to be earned every single day. You cannot take your freedoms for granted. Just like generations who have come before you, you have to do your part to preserve and protect those freedoms. … It is our fundamental belief in the power of hope that has allowed us to rise above the voices of doubt and division, of anger and fear that we have faced in our own lives and in the life of this country. Our hope that if we work hard enough and believe in ourselves, then we can be whatever we dream, regardless of the limitations that others may place on us. The hope that when people see us for who we truly are, maybe, just maybe they, too, will be inspired to rise to their best possible selves.”

Finally, we have yet another speech by Michelle Obama given in her final remarks as First Lady – a tear-inducing event for many Americans and even people around the world. In this emotional end to her political tenure, she gives an empowering, hopeful, expressive speech to young Americans, exhorting them to take hold of its future in all their diversity and work hard at being their best possible selves.

Amidst the bleak era of our current time with Trump as president of the USA, not only Michelle Obama, but all 40 of these amazing speeches can serve as sources of inspiration and hope to everyone – regardless of their identity or ambitions. After hearing these speeches, which one’s your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

Article Written By: Kai Xin Koh

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Faith Ringgold Dies at 93; Wove Black Life Into Quilts and Children’s Books

A champion of Black artists, she explored themes of race, gender, class, family and community through a vast array of media and later the written word.

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The artist was photographed in a multicolored dress sitting on an armchair and smiling with one hand under her chin. Behind her are three large multicolored artworks and a large primitive doll in a yellow dress.

By Margalit Fox

Faith Ringgold, a multimedia artist whose pictorial quilts depicting the African American experience gave rise to a second distinguished career as a writer and illustrator of children’s books, died on Saturday at her home in Englewood, N.J. She was 93.

Her death was confirmed by her daughter Barbara Wallace.

For more than a half-century, Ms. Ringgold explored themes of race, gender, class, family and community through a vast array of media, among them painting, sculpture, mask- and doll-making, textiles and performance art. She was also a longtime advocate of bringing the work of Black people and women into the collections of major American museums.

Ms. Ringgold’s art, which was often rooted in her own experience, has been exhibited at the White House and in museums and galleries around the world. It is in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and the American Craft Museum in New York; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston; and other institutions.

For Ms. Ringgold, as her work and many interviews made plain, art and activism were a seamless, if sometimes quilted, whole. Classically trained as a painter and sculptor, she began producing political paintings in the 1960s and ’70s that explored the highly charged subjects of relations between Black and white people, and between men and women, in America.

“Few artists have kept as many balls in the air as long as Faith Ringgold,” the New York Times art critic Roberta Smith wrote in 2013, reviewing an exhibition of her work at ACA Galleries in Manhattan. “She has spent more than five decades juggling message and form, high and low, art and craft, inspirational narrative and quiet or not so quiet fury about racial and sexual inequality.”

The hallmarks of Ms. Ringgold’s style included the integration of craft materials like fabric, beads and thread with fine-art materials like paint and canvas; vibrant, saturated colors; a flattened perspective that deliberately evoked the work of naïve painters; and a keen, often tender focus on ordinary Black people and the visual minutiae of their daily lives.

Critics praised Ms. Ringgold’s work from the beginning. But wide renown, in the form of exposure in the country’s most prestigious museums, largely eluded her until midlife — a consequence, she often said, of her race, her sex and her uncompromising focus on art as a vehicle for social justice.

“In a world where having the power to express oneself or to do something is limited to a very few, art appeared to me to be an area where anyone could do that,” she told The Orlando Sentinel in 1992. “Of course, I didn’t realize at the time that you could do it and not have anyone know you were doing it.”

Ms. Ringgold ultimately became best known for what she called “story quilts”: large panels of unstretched canvas, painted with narrative scenes in vivid acrylics, framed by quasi-traditional borders of pieced fabric and often incorporating written text. Meant for the wall rather than the bed, the quilts tell of the joys and rigors of Black lives — and of Black women’s lives in particular — while simultaneously celebrating the human capacity to transcend circumstance through the art of dreaming.

One of her most celebrated story quilts, “Tar Beach,” completed in 1988, gave rise to her first children’s book, published three years later under the same title. With text and original paintings by Ms. Ringgold, the book, like the quilt, depicts a Black family convivially picnicking and slumbering on the roof of their Harlem apartment building on a sultry summer’s night.

“Tar Beach” was named a Caldecott Honor Book by the American Library Association and one of the year’s best illustrated children’s titles by The New York Times Book Review. It has endured as a childhood staple and garnered a string of other honors, including the Coretta Scott King Award, presented by the library association for distinguished children’s books about African American life.

Ms. Ringgold went on to illustrate more than a dozen picture books, most with her own text, including “Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky” (1992), about Harriet Tubman, and “If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks” (1999).

Her eminence in the field is all the more striking in that she never set out to be a children’s author in the first place.

A Child of Harlem

The youngest child of Andrew Louis Jones and Willi (Posey) Jones, Faith Willi Jones was born in Harlem on Oct. 8, 1930. Her father, a New York City sanitation truck driver, left the family when Faith was about 2, though he remained in close contact.

Faith’s mother, a seamstress, later became a fashion designer with her own label, Mme. Willi Posey, and an atelier in Harlem. She was so successful that she was able to move with her children to Sugar Hill, the exclusive Harlem enclave whose residents also included Duke Ellington, Dinah Washington and Thurgood Marshall.

“We all lived together, so it wasn’t a surprise to see these people rolling up in their limos,” Ms. Ringgold told The Times in 2010. “And that said to us, you can do this, too.”

An asthmatic child, Faith was often kept home in bed, where she passed the time drawing and painting. Her father brought her her first easel, salvaged from his trash-collection rounds.

Theirs was a storytelling family, and as an adult, Ms. Ringgold recalled with particular pleasure the narrative gifts of her elder brother, Andrew.

“We went to the movies at a time when there were already great stories, but they didn’t have any Black people in them — or if they did, you didn’t like the way the characters were,” she said in an interview for the NPR program “All Things Considered” in 1999. “So my brother would come home and he would rewrite everything.”

One day in the 1940s, when Andrew was a teenager, he was dispatched on an errand for their mother to a white neighborhood in Upper Manhattan. There, a gang of white youths surrounded him and beat him nearly to death. He was refused treatment at a local hospital.

He recovered, but he was never the same, Ms. Ringgold said. He became addicted to drugs and died of an overdose in 1961.

The young Ms. Ringgold graduated from George Washington High School in Upper Manhattan. At about 20, she eloped with a childhood sweetheart, Robert Earl Wallace, and had two daughters in quick succession. But she soon discovered that her husband, a classical and jazz pianist, was a drug addict; they separated in 1954 and divorced two years later. (Mr. Wallace also died of an overdose, of heroin, in 1961.)

Ms. Ringgold earned a bachelor’s degree in art and education from the City College of New York in 1955 and a master’s in art there in 1959. In 1962, she married Burdette Ringgold.

From 1955 to 1973, Ms. Ringgold taught art in the New York City public school system, in Harlem and the Bronx, while trying to establish a career as a painter. At first she produced landscape paintings in the vein of the European masters she had studied in college.

“We copied Greek busts, we copied Degas, we copied everything,” she said in an interview for the catalog of “Faith Ringgold: A 25-Year Survey,” a 1990 retrospective at the Fine Arts Museum of Long Island that toured nationally. “It was generally thought that we weren’t experienced enough to be original, and if we were original we were sometimes up for ridicule.”

Little by little, Ms. Ringgold cast about for an aesthetic that reflected her own life and times. By the 1960s, influenced by the writings of James Baldwin and LeRoi Jones (later known as Amiri Baraka), along with the rich visual polyphony of African art and the rhythms of the jazz she had heard and loved as a child, she had found it.

Her work from this period includes the “Black Light” series, a set of portraits in which she depicted her African American subjects using a specially conceived palette of rich dark colors.

It also includes a 1967 painting, “American People Series #20: Die,” which proved a professional watershed. Twelve feet long, the canvas depicts a violent profusion of men, women and children — Black and white, some wielding weapons, most spattered with blood — whose roiling tangle recalls Picasso’s 1937 masterpiece, “Guernica.”

“Die” became the centerpiece of her first solo exhibition, held that year at Spectrum Gallery in New York. The show helped her stake her claim as a significant American artist.

A Voice of Protest

In 1968, Ms. Ringgold helped organize a protest by Black artists, long marginalized by the art establishment, at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Two years later, she took part in a protest at the Museum of Modern Art centering on women artists.

“Today, some 25 years later,” she wrote in 1995, “nothing much has changed at the Modern except which white man gets the next show.”

The word “man” was telling, for Ms. Ringgold had long since come to believe that her efforts on behalf of Black artists were of little avail to those who also happened to be female. By the 1970s, she was producing more overtly feminist work.

Ms. Ringgold, who had learned to sew from her mother, began augmenting her arsenal with the traditional materials of “women’s work”: needles, thread and cloth. She made masks, cloth dolls and soft fabric sculptures, some of them life-size, that were exhibited on their own and used in her performance pieces about racial and sexual disenfranchisement.

She also embarked on her “Slave Rape” series, a set of paintings depicting the fate of Black women in the antebellum South, which she framed with borders of patterned cloth.

Collaborating with her mother, Ms. Ringgold made her first full quilt, “Echoes of Harlem,” a montage of painted Black faces and pieced fabric, in 1980. It was a modern manifestation of a centuries-old Black tradition.

“I think of quilts as the classic art form of Black people in America,” Ms. Ringgold told The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa., in 2005. “When African slaves came to America, they couldn’t do their sculpture anymore. They were divorced from their religion. So they would take scraps of fabric and make them into coverlets for the master and for themselves.”

In 1983, frustrated at her inability to find a publisher for a memoir she had written, Ms. Ringgold began incorporating narrative text into her quilts. Few artists of the period were doing anything of the kind.

The first of her story quilts, “Who’s Afraid of Aunt Jemima?,” reimagined the original stereotyped figure — the fat, frumpy Black woman, drawn straight from a minstrel show, whom many Black people considered offensive. On Ms. Ringgold’s quilt, Jemima has been transformed into a Black feminist role model: trim, elegant and a successful entrepreneur.

In the late 1980s, after an editor at Crown Publishers saw “Tar Beach,” Ms. Ringgold was asked to transform that quilt into a picture book. The resulting work tells the story of 8-year-old Cassie Lightfoot — the daughter of the picnicking family — who one magical night in 1939 flies over the rooftops of the city to soar above the George Washington Bridge.

“I can fly — yes, fly,” Ms. Ringgold’s text reads. “Me, Cassie Louise Lightfoot, only eight years old and in the third grade, and I can fly. That means I am free to go wherever I want for the rest of my life.”

Ms. Ringgold’s art was acquired by many private collectors, among them Maya Angelou and Oprah Winfrey. It was also commissioned for public spaces, including the 125th Street subway station on the Lenox Avenue line in Manhattan, where two immense mosaic murals, collectively titled “Flying Home,” depict storied Black figures like Josephine Baker, Malcolm X and Zora Neale Hurston.

For what is very likely the most widely utilized public space of all, the internet, she created a Google Doodle to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2012.

Ms. Ringgold was the subject of significant retrospectives at the Studio Museum in Harlem, Rutgers University and the National Museum of Women in the Arts, in Washington. In 2016, not long after her 85th birthday, MoMA acquired “Die” for its permanent collection.

More recently, in 2022, she received a major retrospective at the New Museum in Manhattan. The show, which filled three floors, “makes clear that what consigned Ringgold to an outlier track half a century ago puts her front and center now,” Holland Cotter wrote in his review in The Times. The exhibition later traveled to the Musée Picasso in Paris.

Ms. Ringgold, who for many years divided her time between her home in Englewood, N.J., and California, where she was a faculty member of the University of California, San Diego, also taught in New York at the Bank Street College of Education, Pratt Institute and elsewhere.

In 1999, she established the Anyone Can Fly Foundation, which promotes the work of artists of the African diaspora from the 18th century onward.

Among her many laurels are a Guggenheim fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts awards for painting and sculpture, and a spate of honorary doctorates.

Her other books include her memoir, “We Flew Over the Bridge,” published by Little, Brown & Company in 1995.

In addition to her daughter Barbara, a linguist, Ms. Ringgold is survived by another daughter, Michele Wallace, a prominent feminist writer and cultural critic; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Her husband, Burdette Ringgold, died in 2020.

Though Ms. Ringgold had felt the need to draw and paint from the time she was a girl, she said late in life that her career sprang from an even more urgent imperative.

As she told an interviewer in 2008, “If I woke up white in America, I wouldn’t be an artist.”

Emmett Lindner contributed reporting.

Margalit Fox is a former senior writer on the obituaries desk at The Times. She was previously an editor at the Book Review. She has written the send-offs of some of the best-known cultural figures of our era, including Betty Friedan, Maya Angelou and Seamus Heaney. More about Margalit Fox

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Luke Broderick Claims He Knows “a Big F-cking Secret" About the Lallys’ Marriage

Jesse Lally and Michelle Saniei Lally may not be seeing eye to eye, but there's one famous man she has been spending time with.

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Could there be a secret with the power to destroy Jesse and Michelle Saniei Lally’s marriage ? 

How to Watch

Watch  The Valley  on Bravo Tuesdays at 9/8c and next day on Peacock . Catch up on the Bravo app . 

Well, Luke Broderick thinks so. 

Luke let it slip in a preview clip for  The Valley   Season 1, Episode 5 t hat he may be in possession of some damaging information about the couple’s marriage. 

“I know Jesse and Michelle’s relationship isn’t the best, but I’m also holding a secret that can just end everything,” Luke alleged.

Yet as soon as producers asked Luke to expand on what he knew, he suddenly clammed up.

“Things, uh, I don’t know how to say this,” Luke said with a nervous laugh before he ended the conversation.

Luke’s bombshell comment evoked memories of an earlier statement made by his girlfriend,  Kristen Doute . 

Luke Broderick and Kristen Doute chat at dinner.

During a tense argument between Michelle and Kristen, the latter insisted she had “done nothing but protect you.” At the time, Kristen gave no further clues about what she meant by the loaded comment, but it did spark some suspicion from the other dinner guests.

It’s no secret Jesse and Michelle have been struggling in their marriage . The couple, who share 3-year-old daughter Isabella Bunny, have been open about seeing a life coach to see if they can reignite the spark between them. 

Who is the famous director Michelle Saniei Lally is friends with?

Michelle may be finding it hard to connect with Jesse, but according to the preview clip, there is one famous guy she has been spending time with. Michelle reportedly connected with a famous unnamed director during one of her frequent treks to Chateau Marmont, a boutique hotel located just blocks from her home.

“Michelle’s hanging out with [name redacted] right now,” Jax Taylor told the rest of the guys as the topic shifted to the status of the Lallys' marriage.  “So, she’s, she’s … that’s a one-upper big time!”

While the identity of the mystery man wasn’t revealed, Zach Wickham pointed out it was someone who “loves Chateau.” 

“Michelle always claims that she doesn’t know who famous people are but like she was going out with what’s that director? [Name redacted],” Jax told producers. “She was going out with him for like a couple days straight. You know, she goes to Chateau every day, she walks down from her house and she just so happened to have met him at the pool and they got along and they were talking.”

Jesse, however, is not bothered or intimidated by his wife befriending the famous unknown director.

Jesse admitted his wife spent time with the director, but has seemingly adopted a cavalier attitude about the friendship.

“She was with him for like the entire night, got wrecked, they had dinner the other night with a famous actor,” he said.

Jax Taylor and Jesse Lally at a pool party.

While some of the men questioned how Jesse felt about his wife spending extended amounts of time with someone “super famous” and “wealthy,” the real estate agent seemed to shake off the concerns.

 “I think when you are secure enough in a relationship or in yourself, you trust Michelle’s not going to do anything,” he said, before adding. “If she does something, then it’s on her, you know what I mean?"

Here's what you missed on Bravo:

Go Inside Jax and Brittany's Home — and See the Very Weird Thing They Did to the Shower

Brittany Cartwright & Jax Taylor Reunite for Their Son's 3rd Birthday Bash (PICS)

Find Out Why Jax Taylor and Brittany Cartwright Reunited — and How Her Mom, Sherri, Played a Role

Luke asked Jesse whether he would ever work through it, if Michelle made “a mistake,” but the dad of one had a pretty clear response.

“I wouldn’t,” he said. 

“You would never try to remedy that as much as you love her?” Zach pressed.

“No,” Jesse said definitively.

Are Michelle and Jesse still together?

No. The couple announced their breakup in March 2024.

To find out whether Michelle will reveal any details about the mystery man’s identity in the episodes ahead, tune in to The Valley Tuesday nights on Bravo or available streaming on Peacock.

  • Jesse Lally
  • Michelle Saniei Lally
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Why Patricia Highsmith's most famous creature, Tom Ripley, continues to fascinate

Carole V. Bell

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Andrew Scott plays Tom Ripley in the new Netflix series, Ripley , drawn from Patricia Highsmith's novel. Lorenzo Sisti/Netflix © 2021 hide caption

Andrew Scott plays Tom Ripley in the new Netflix series, Ripley , drawn from Patricia Highsmith's novel.

For a total psychopath, Tom Ripley is remarkably popular. As we near the 25th anniversary of the acclaimed Oscar-nominated big screen adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's most infamous creation, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Netflix has released a striking new reimagining, simply titled Ripley. Sinister and visually stunning, the series reminds us why the book continues to influence popular culture.

Through seven decades, Highsmith's novel, The Talented Mr. Ripley has grown in allure as a masterwork of American noir, boosted by – but distinct from – its adaptations. The core story is always the same: A wealthy man enlists fraudster Tom Ripley, his son's distant acquaintance, to travel to Italy and woo his errant, playboy son back to the fold; but rather than returning Dickie to his family, an envious Tom disposes of him and assumes his identity. Other murders follow to cover the first.

Cover of The Talented Mr. Ripley

This bloody-minded serial killer fantasist and antisocial social climber would become Patricia Highsmith's best known and best loved creation. She published five Ripley novels in all from 1955 to 1991, the last a few years before her death. Since his debut, her all-American psychopath has inspired six screen adaptations, a play by Phyllis Nagy, and a musical staging. That legacy is a testament to Ripley's complicated appeal – amoral, unassuming and audacious — and Highsmith's scalpel-sharp writing. There's something irresistible about an unapologetic grifter, who seizes the chance at a better life by stealing someone else's. The text is rich enough to handle wildly different interpretations that feel true to the original and brilliant in their own right.

A window into Ripley's roots

In the first Ripley novel, one childhood scene is especially vivid. When he was 12, and his parents long dead, Tom's reluctant guardian Aunt Dottie made him get out of her car and run an errand on foot while stuck in traffic. When the cars started moving again, Tom was forced into "running between huge, inching cars, always about to touch the door of Aunt Dottie's car and never being quite able to..." Instead of waiting, his aunt "had kept inching along as fast as she could go..." Worse, she taunted him, "yelling, 'Come on, come on, slowpoke!' out the window." The memory ends with Tom in teary frustration and his aunt hurling a slur at him: "Sissy! He's a sissy from the ground up. Just like his father!"

Untangling the contradictions of crime novelist Patricia Highsmith

Untangling the contradictions of crime novelist Patricia Highsmith

This story bubbles up into the memory of the adult con man Tom Ripley while he's lying on a ship deck chair on the way to Europe. Buoyed in body and spirit by the luxury and abundance of his surroundings, Tom starts to plot a brighter future for himself. But he keeps returning to past indignities, and that cruel vignette stands out. Looking back from his comfortable perch, Ripley thinks, "It was a wonder he had emerged from such treatment as well as he had." This isn't justification, just a part of Ripley's essence – Ripley as a vulnerable boy rather than cipher or leech or thief, a man whose emotional and physical deprivations curdle into resentment and violence.

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Andrew Scott as Tom Ripley in the Netflix series Ripley. Philippe Antonello/Netflix © 2023 hide caption

That window into Ripley's roots is one reason I loved re-reading the novel in the lead up to a new adaptation. Highsmith illuminates the inner life of what she recognized as her "psychopath hero" with identification rather than judgment (Highsmith was openly enamored of her creation). That intense interiority is one reason Highsmith is often credited with helping reinvent and popularize the psychological thriller, a genre with roots in the 19th century, and why her influence persists despite a deservedly controversial reputation . Her debut novel became Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train (1951) less than a year after publication, and her 1957 novel Deep Water appears on The Atlantic's list of 100 Great American novels.

With Ripley, the narration lives outside of Tom but close enough for dissection. We learn that he's a loner but not completely, that he gets antsy around people, only able to sustain a performance of normalcy for so long. He's caught between a need for independence born of his smothering yet loveless upbringing and an aching desire for other people's good regard.

In proximity to beauty and privilege but not of it, Tom's neediness escalates. He's ruthless and amoral, but human and self-conscious. He sobs! And he yearns.. Scene by masterful scene, sentence by sentence, with each disturbing thought and memory, Highsmith reveals how Ripley's psyche veers out of bounds, a slow drip punctuated by shocking jumps. When Dickie and Tom give a taxi home to a local girl they bump into, and she thanks them, calling them the nicest Americans she's ever met, Tom remarks to Dickie, "You know what most crummy Americans would do in a case like that—rape her." It's a sharp kick in the midst of banality.

Don't call him a sociopath: Here's how Andrew Scott humanizes 'Ripley'

Don't call him a sociopath: Here's how Andrew Scott humanizes 'Ripley'

Worse, when real violent thoughts finally result in action, Tom revels like a pig in mud in his stolen persona. Feeling "blameless and free," he likens his confidence in Dickie's shoes to how "a fine actor probably feels when he plays an important role on a stage with the conviction that the role he is playing could not be played better by anyone else." The great beauty of Highsmith's novel lies in moments like this, illuminating the dark recesses of a psyche spinning out of control.

A story ripe for retelling

A portrait this faceted begs for retelling and reinvention — it's a dream role for an actor — but the text also defies total capture. Highsmith could make a two-act play out of the domestic symbolism and social psychological dynamics of Dickie purchasing a refrigerator.

The beauty of the 1999 movie and 2024 series interpretations of Ripley, despite this high bar, is that they're fully formed artworks of their own.

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Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law in the film The Talented Mr. Ripley. Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo hide caption

Netflix's series has both the text and the sublimely entertaining 1999 movie with its constellation of Hollywood stars to live up to. Matt Damon and Jude Law were at the height of their powers as Tom Ripley and Dickie Greenleaf (Law earned a best supporting actor Oscar nomination), and Gwyneth Paltrow was incandescent and multidimensional as Dickie's girlfriend Marge. They're memorably supported by Cate Blanchette and Philip Seymour Hoffman as trust fund-babies abroad. Their production is gorgeously shot in the sun-drenched Amalfi coast and the Oscar nominated soundtrack beautifully amplifies the emotion and story. In Anthony Minghella's screenplay, when the nastiness and violence emerge from Dickie as well as Tom it's an arresting aberration against this deliberately effervescent, candy-colored backdrop.

The appeal of Minghella's acclaimed and popular film has more than endured, but it's not the only classic iteration of Ripley's debut. The first significant big screen rendering was the 1960 French thriller Purple Noon, starring Alain Delon as a Ripley with beauty that rivals Dickie's. There are three less celebrated adaptations of other Ripley novels. 2023's Saltburn wasn't a Ripley reimagining but its story of upper class ruin at the hands of an interloper seem to spring from a similar well. Plus, the film's most audacious interlude reads as an homage to Jude Law and Matt Damon's homoerotic bathtub scene, and the movie and discourse around added new heat to the Highsmith mystique.

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Anthony Minghella, far left, director of the film "The Talented Mr. Ripley," poses with cast members, from left, Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett and Philip Seymour Hoffman at the premiere of the film on Dec. 12, 1999, in the Westwood section of Los Angeles. Chris Pizzello/AP hide caption

Anthony Minghella, far left, director of the film "The Talented Mr. Ripley," poses with cast members, from left, Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett and Philip Seymour Hoffman at the premiere of the film on Dec. 12, 1999, in the Westwood section of Los Angeles.

Despite all that history, the pedigreed new Netflix production successfully forges its own haunting vision of Ripley. Written and directed by Steve Zaillian (screenwriter of Schindler's List and The Irishman ), Ripley (mostly) benefits from having more space to breathe than the film – and from Andrew Scott's unflinching performance.

Netflix's stylish 'Ripley' stretches the grift — and the tension — to the max

Netflix's stylish 'Ripley' stretches the grift — and the tension — to the max

Leaving the Hot Priest of Fleabag fame behind, Scott gives a harder, colder interpretation of the title role. Though significantly older than Highsmith's 25-year-old antihero, the 47-year-old BAFTA winner Scott ( All of Us Strangers , Sherlock ) fully embodies the brooding and seething Ripley. Rather than charming and boyish, Netflix's Tom Ripley is visibly creased and battered. Instead of Highsmith's peevish 25-year-old, who notices with pleasure and opportunism physical resemblances with his privileged friend, Ripley and Dickie's relationship is more clearly grifter and target. Ripley director Zaillan also advances the timeline to 1961, plunging Ripley into a more modern and edgy world.

Scott is well supported by Johnny Flynn ( Emma ) as a feckless Dickie, and Dakota Fanning, who delivers a mannered and pricklier Marge, the role that Gwyneth Paltrow made famous. If there's one flaw, it's that Ripley masters the style and techniques of Hitchcockian noir, without its momentum. This series' slow deliberate pace and eerie quiet can sometimes feel like a slog.

'Ripley' returns in black and white — and is so much better for it

Pop Culture Happy Hour

'ripley' returns in black and white — and is so much better for it.

Still, Ripley 's performances and striking style elevate the series. Rendered in stark Black and white tones, each shot is as visually arresting as the best still photo. Anthropological and artistic, it's the opposite of Anthony Minghella's bright Italian playground presided over by Jude Law as a golden god. This approach transforms even the most ordinary scene —a cat on a bench in a Roman rooming house — into a foreboding tableau. The noirish visuals are the perfect look for this seedier and more cerebral thriller. So too are the peeling paint, decaying edifices, and too many steps on which the camera lingers. All together, the aesthetic looks like something out of an avant-garde European movie like Jean Cocteau 's La Belle et La Bête or a painting by Caravaggio. The series significantly expands on what Highsmith wrote about Tom's relationship with high art, spinning the idea that he had "discovered an interest in paintings'' from emulating Dickie into an obsessive identification with a 17th-century Italian painter known for his bloody and brutal canvases, interplay of shadow and light, and for murder. It's an ingenious representation of Tom's descent on screen.

With these inspired creative choices, the Anthony Minghella film and the Netflix series stand on their own. But if you have the inclination, the two major screen productions and the novel form a phenomenal triple bill.

A slow runner and fast reader, Carole V. Bell is a cultural critic and communication scholar focusing on media, politics and identity. You can find her on Twitter @BellCV .

Latinx Files: Introducing the Latinidad Stage

Justin Torres, Yesika Salgado, Valentina and the cast of "Blood In, Blood Out"

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Are you looking for something to do this weekend in Los Angeles? We got you.

The annual L.A. Times Festival of Books will take over the USC campus on Saturday and Sunday, and will feature more than 550 speakers and authors . Among those scheduled to appear are novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen (his debut novel, “The Sympathizer,” won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and has been adapted into a drama series for Max); drag icon RuPaul; and “Vanderpump Rules” cast member Ariana Maddix.

This year, the festival will also include the Latindad Stage, which will feature two days of discussions and readings focusing on the Latinx experience. Panels will be held in English, Spanish and Spanglish, and general admission to the festival and to the stage is free.

A lot of love, effort and thought went into the curation of the Latinidad stage. Over the last few months, De Los and L.A. Times en Español have been working closely with outside collaborators Marty Preciado and Ricardo Avendaño to come up with an inclusive program that reflects as many of our stories as possible. We also wanted a space that celebrated our authors. The end result is something I am extremely proud of.

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Fidel Martinez delves into the latest stories that capture the multitudes within the American Latinx community.

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And what can one expect from the Latinidad Stage? A little bit of everything.

Both days will kick off with children’s readings with the L.A. Public Library and Lil’ Libros, before moving on to discussions on topics including self-care and Latinx generational wealth, the power of the Latinx vote and first-generation experiences. The Latinidad Stage will also feature poetry readings by authors who have contributed to the De Los poetry series .

Notable participants include National Award winner Justin Torres, who will be in conversation with Nadxieli Nieto, executive editor at Flatiron Books; Valentina , the “Princess of Southeast L.A.” and host of the inaugural season of “Drag Race: Mexico,” who will be on a panel that challenges the myth of the monolithic Latinx experience; and Hollywood director Taylor Hackford and poet/screenwriter Jimmy Santiago Baca, who will discuss “Blood In Blood Out,” their recently released book about the making of the 1993 cult classic of the same name.

For a complete schedule of the Latinidad Stage, head to the De Los Instagram page . You can also find the complete schedule for the L.A. Times Festival of Books, as well as more information about parking and panel reservations, here .

And before I go, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a special shout-out to assistant editor Jessica Perez, who ensured that every “i” was dotted and every “t” crossed.

— Fidel Martinez

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Things we read this week that we think you should read

From the L.A. Times :

L.A.’s ultimate heartbreak industry isn’t Hollywood. It’s local journalism

In his latest, columnist Gustavo Arellano discusses the heartbreaking state of local journalism in light of L.A. Taco’s dire financial situation. It’s a sobering read, one that makes mention of the recent layoffs at The Times, but Arellano offers a sliver of hope for the future of journalism. “But even if we all fail, the dream to do good journalism in Los Angeles will never die,” Arellano writes.

‘Amor Eterno’ and ‘El Cantante’ to be added to National Recording Registry

Juan Gabriel’s “Amor Eterno” and Hector Lavoe’s “El Cantante” have found a new home at the Library of Congress. The two tracks join the likes of Daddy Yankee’s “Gasolina,” Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca” and Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba” as Latin songs included in the National Recording Registry.

Huge Disneyland expansion to add new rides, restaurants and hotels wins OK

Disneyland is getting a makeover. Staff writers Salvador Hernandez and Ruben Vives report that the Anaheim City Council has unanimously approved Disneyland’s multibillion-dollar expansion plan despite local concern over road closures, congestion and air pollution.

Stories from other publications:

Remembering Cola Boyy, disability advocate and musician

For Caló News, reporter Chelsea Hylton eulogized Cola Boyy, the indie pop musician who died last month at age 34. The self-proclaimed “disabled disco innovator” and Oxnard native will be remembered for his funky beats and for using his platform to advocate for individuals with disabilities.

Xavi talks debut album, Karol G and iconic Troubadour show

For Teen Vogue, Lucas Villa profiled Xavi, the 19-year-old breakout música mexicana star from Phoenix who became the first solo artist of Mexican descent to top Spotify’s global chart.

Is Texas about to turn Latinos into single-issue voters?

For the Atlantic, immigration reporter Jack Herrera dives deep into SB 4, the Texas legislation that’s being referred to as the “show me your papers law,” and how it will influence Latinx voters in Texas.

“Will the Latinos in Texas who have welcomed Republicans’ border crackdown feel the same way if state police start arresting their neighbors?” asks Herrera in his piece, which also takes a look back at past anti-immigrant legislation that backfired in California and Arizona.

Here are the Latina players chosen in the 2024 WNBA Draft

After an exciting NCAA women’s basketball tournament final that drew a bigger audience than the men’s final, all eyes are now on the WNBA, whose season is set to kick off next month. On Monday, the league held its annual draft. The folks over at Remezcla have a helpful primer on all the Latina ballers selected.

— Andrea Flores

The Latinx experience chronicled

Get the Latinx Files newsletter for stories that capture the multitudes within our communities.

book on famous speeches

Fidel Martinez writes the Latinx Files, a weekly newsletter that focuses on the American Latinx experience. He started at The Times in 2018 as an audience engagement editor, focusing on sports. Previously he worked as politics editor for Mitu, as a social storytelling producer for Fusion Media Group and content curator and managing editor for Break Media. He is a proud Tejano who will fight anyone who disparages flour tortillas.

book on famous speeches

Andrea Flores is a reporter with De Los covering the many contours of Latinidad for the Los Angeles Times. She has both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stanford University and is originally from Waukegan, Ill.

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Pennsylvania school district cancels actor’s speech over his activism and ‘lifestyle’

FILE - Actor Maulik Pancholy attends the premiere of "Trishna" during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival on Friday, April 27, 2012 in New York. A Pennsylvania school district has canceled an upcoming appearance by actor and children's book author Pancholy after district leaders cited concerns about what they described as his activism and “lifestyle.” Pancholy, who is gay, was scheduled to speak against bullying during a May 22, 2024, assembly at Mountain View Middle School in Cumberland County. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini, File)

FILE - Actor Maulik Pancholy attends the premiere of “Trishna” during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival on Friday, April 27, 2012 in New York. A Pennsylvania school district has canceled an upcoming appearance by actor and children’s book author Pancholy after district leaders cited concerns about what they described as his activism and “lifestyle.” Pancholy, who is gay, was scheduled to speak against bullying during a May 22, 2024, assembly at Mountain View Middle School in Cumberland County. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini, File)

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MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania school district has canceled an upcoming appearance by actor and children’s book author Maulik Pancholy after district leaders cited concerns about what they described as his activism and “lifestyle.”

Pancholy, who is gay, was scheduled to speak against bullying during a May 22 assembly at Mountain View Middle School in Cumberland County. However, the district’s school board voted unanimously Monday night to cancel his talk after some members voiced concerns and others noted the district’s policy about not hosting overtly political events, news outlets reported. The policy was enacted after the district was criticized for hosting a rally by Donald Trump during his 2016 campaign for president.

Pancholy, 48, is an award-winning actor, including for his roles on the television shows “30 Rock” and “Weeds,” and as the voice of Baljeet in the Disney animated series, “Phineas & Ferb.” He also has written children’s books and in 2014 was named by then-President Barack Obama to serve on the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, where he co-founded a campaign to combat AAPI bullying.

Pancholy’s appearance was scheduled by the school’s leadership team, which each year selects an author to present a “unique educational experience for students,” according to the district.

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro speaks during a President Joe Biden campaign event in Scranton, Pa., Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

While discussing the appearance at Monday night’s meeting, school board members said they did not know what Pancholy’s talk would be about, but one member said he didn’t “want to run the risk” of what it might entail.

“If you research this individual, he labels himself as an activist,” Bud Shaffner said, according to Pennlive. “He is proud of his lifestyle, and I don’t think that should be imposed upon our students, at any age.”

The board’s vote sparked criticism from several parents, students and community members who called the decision “homophobic.” Some have started online petitions urging that Pancholy’s appearance be reinstated.

In a statement posted on social media, Pancholy said that as a middle school student he never saw himself represented in stories, and that books featuring South Asian-American or LGBTQ+ characters “didn’t exist.” When he started writing his own novels years later, he was still hard-pressed to find those stories, he said.

“It’s why I wrote my books in the first place,” Pancholy wrote. “Because representation matters.”

Pancholy said his school visits are meant “to let all young people know that they’re seen. To let them know that they matter.” When he talks about his characters feeling “different,” he said he is always surprised by how many children of various identities and backgrounds want to share how they feel different too.

“That’s the power of books. They build empathy,” Pancholy wrote. “I wonder why a school board is so afraid of that?”

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  26. School board cancels '30 Rock' actor's speech over concerns of activism

    Pennsylvania school district cancel's actor's speech over concerns of activism, 'lifestyle' ... 2012 in New York. A Pennsylvania school district has canceled an upcoming appearance by actor and children's book author Pancholy after district leaders cited concerns about what they described as his activism and "lifestyle." Pancholy ...