must-read speeches - woman reading on tablet
Adobe Stock

These 5 Must-Read Speeches From American History are Incredibly Impactful

These must-read speeches deserve a few minutes of your time.

In this presidential election year, we are reminded of the power of speeches. They are opportunities for leaders to express their values, inspire change, motivate, and rally.

As Boyd Matheson, host of KSL NewsRadio’s Inside Sources, reminds us, impactful speeches have been delivered throughout America’s past.


What Makes a Speech Memorable?

According to Boyd, a memorable speech must capture a moment and lead the listener somewhere. It’s not just about stringing together flowery words and good sentences. The speech must ultimately inspire the listener to take action.

As Boyd put it, “Most speeches are much more said than ever done, but if a speech can actually lead to doing something, those are the speeches that matter most.”

Must-Read Speeches from America’s Past

Boyd shared snippets from five speeches that he believes are must-reads.

Bobby Kennedy

Bobby Kennedy’s speech, delivered off of just some scratch notes in the back of a pickup truck in the ghetto on the night of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, is considered one of the greatest speeches ever delivered.

Kennedy said, “We need in the United States. Not division. What we need in the United States is not hatred. What we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but love and wisdom and compassion towards one another.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt, who delivered the first address to the nation after Pearl Harbor, is another notable speaker.

She said, “We must go about our daily business more determined than ever to do the ordinary things as well as we can. And when we find a way to do anything more in our communities to help others, to build morale, to give a feeling of security, we must do it. Whatever is asked of us, I am sure we can accomplish it. We are the free and unconquerable people of the United States of America.

Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson, the first one to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball, knew what it meant to be discriminated against and persecuted. Yet, he believed in the goodness of a free society.

He said, “I was sustained by the personal and deep-rooted belief that my fight had a chance. I had a chance because it took place in a free society. Not once was I forced to face and fight an immovable object. I believe in the goodness of a free society, and I believe that the society can remain good only as long as we’re willing to fight for it and to fight against whatever imperfections may exist.

Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter’s speech, delivered from the Oval Office during the energy crisis and high inflation, was about confidence in this country.

He said, “The confidence that we have always had as a people is not simply some romantic dream or a proverb in a dusty book that we read just on the Fourth of July. It is the idea which founded our nation and has guided our development as a people. Confidence in the future has supported everything else. Public institutions and private enterprise, our own families, and the very Constitution of the United States. Confidence has defined our course and has served as a link between the generations.

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was not directed towards those who had given the last full measure of devotion. Instead, it was for us, the living.

Lincoln said, “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”


Others of note:

Ronald Reagan – “A Time for Choosing”

Amanda Gorman’s poem at President Biden’s Inaugural

George Washington’s Farewell address to the nation

Oprah Winfrey’s graduation speech at USC

Martin Luther King Jr – the rest of the “I Have a Dream” speech

Coach Jim Valvano – “Never Give Up”

The Sermon on the Mount – Jesus

Add comment