These commencement speakers include presidents, a professor, political strategist and industry leader.
- John F. Kennedy at American University: On June 10, 1963, President JFK gave the commencement address at American University, first celebrating the institution of American universities, and then discussing the “new face of war” and its great cost. Kennedy implores the graduates to pursue peace, even though it is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war, and references the end to the Cold War.
- Randy Pausch at Carnegie Mellon: Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture” became an Internet sensation and inspiration for people around the world who felt moved by the professor’s battle with cancer and his insistence on the power and significance of achieving your childhood dreams. Here, a visibly ill Pausch, delivers the commencement address at Carnegie Mellon.
- James Carville at Tulane University: Louisiana native and colorful political strategist James Carville gave a rousing, sincere speech to the graduates of Tulane University of 2008, the first class to graduate since Hurricane Katrina interrupted their studies and nearly destroyed the city of New Orleans.
- Barack Obama at Notre Dame: When students and faculty at Notre Dame expressed disappointment and even outrage that President Barack Obama would speak at the school’s 2009 graduation ceremony, the national media covered the debate from start to finish. In the end, Obama did give the speech despite the controversy over his support of abortion, which the Catholic university disapproved of.
- Steve Jobs at Stanford: Computer science pioneer Steve Jobs gave an emotional but inspirational speech to the 2005 graduates of Stanford University, ending with the line “Stay hungry, stay foolish,” a message that Jobs has always wished for himself and which he wished for the graduates.
Presidents are natural and practiced leaders and give some of the most impressive speeches. Here is a selection of some of the most important speeches of the 20th century.
- Barack Obama Election Night Speech: Moments after being elected the first ever African American President of the United States, Obama addresses the nation live from Chicago.
- Ronald Reagan’s 40th Anniversary of D-Day Speech: Watch President Ronald Reagan give an illustrative 40th anniversary of D-Day speech on “a lonely, windswept point” on the beach at Normandy.
- Lyndon Johnson Remarks on Signing the Civil Rights Bill: President LBJ explains to the American public the significance of his signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
- George W. Bush Post 9/11 Speech: After terrorists hijacked airplanes and flew them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, shocked and grief-stricken Americans turned to their TV sets that evening to listen to President George W. Bush tell them what to do next.
- Ich Bin Ein Berliner: President John F. Kennedy visited the Berlin Wall to give this encouraging speech to the everyday citizens who suffered under Communism and cheered when Kennedy repeated “Let them come to Berlin.”
- President Nixon Announcing Resignation: Scandalized President Richard Nixon addresses the nation in this speech, announcing his resignation after Watergate.
- “Tear Down This Wall”: Listen to Ronald Reagan’s famous “Tear Down This Wall” speech in Berlin in front of the famous Berlin Wall.
- George W. Bush’s Bullhorn Speech: What is now known as Bush’s “Bullhorn Speech” started as a casual impromptu rally for the recovery workers at Ground Zero, just after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Bush stood on top of a hill of rubble and yelled to the crowd “I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you!”
- Jimmy Carter Crisis of Confidence Speech: Carter talks about the “crisis in confidence” that Americans had in government.
- JFK Inaugural Address: JFK’s inaugural address is one of the most famous swearing-in speeches in history.
- LBJ’s First Speech as President: Listen to LBJ’s first speech as President, just after JFK was shot.
- The Challenger Explosion: Reagan shares news of the Challenger Explosion from the Oval Office.
- John F. Kennedy’s Moon Speech: Kennedy addresses Congress and asks them to support the space project.
- President Bill Clinton Farewell Speech: Clinton recaps his presidency and defends his legacy in this speech.
- President Harry S Truman First Speech to Congress: This is Truman’s first speech to Congress, in which he mourns recently deceased FDR.
- LBJ Gulf of Tonkin Incident: President LBJ reports on the violent Gulf of Tonkin Incident.
Society and Culture
Here you will find speeches that inspired social change and encouraged audiences to become better citizens of the world.
- Martin Luther King “I Have a Dream”: Watch one of the most iconic American speeches ever made here: Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
- William Faulkner Nobel Prize speech: Look at a photograph of author William Faulkner accepting his Nobel Prize as you listen to his speech about the condition of the human spirit and the human heart.
- LBJ We Shall Overcome: This video uses LBJ’s famous We Shall Overcome speech as part of a video montage celebrating the civil rights movement.
- Malcolm X By Any Means Necessary: Malcolm X addresses friends and enemies and explains how he’ll fight for civil rights “by any means necessary.”
- Death of Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Kennedy: Robert Kennedy announces the death of MLK and then eulogizes the civil rights leader in this 1968 speech.
- Lou Gehrig’s speech: Lou Gehrig gives his farewell to baseball speech on the 4th of July at Yankee Stadium.
- The Perils of Indifference: Listen to Elie Wiesel’s famous speech about the nature of indifference.
- Mario Savio: Listen to this exciting, impassioned speech from a very worked up Mario Savio, a member of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement.
- Give Them Hope Speech: Harvey Milk aims to give gay people around the country a feeling of hope that they belong in society and have rights and deserve respect.
- Reagan’s Evil Empire Speech: Ronald Reagan gives his famous Evil Empire speech to the National Association of Evangelicals.
- Nelson Mandela Released 1990: When Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990, he gave this speech to supporters.
- Jimmy Valvano’s ESPY Speech: Dying basketball coach Jimmy Valvano delivered this famous, inspiring speech at the first ever ESPYs in 1993. He died of cancer two months later.
- Bill Cosby Famous Pound Cake Speech: Comedian Bill Cosby gives a touching but humorous speech in honor of the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education.
- Kofi Annan’s Farewell Speech: UN Secretary General Kofi Annan bids farewell in this 2006 speech.
- Mahatma Gandhi Speech: Gandhi gave this speech at Kingsley Hall in London in 1931. In it, he discusses the nature of rule and religion.
War and Peace
Listen to speeches from Hitler, Churchill, Eisenhower and other military leaders about war and peace.
- FDR Pearl Harbor Address: Just after the United States is attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt addresses the country and Congress in his famous “date which will live in infamy” speech.
- General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s D-Day Speech: Listen to Eisenhower’s speech ordering troops to D-Day here.
- General Douglas MacArthur Farewell Speech to Congress: General MacArthur delivers this speech in 1951 “with deep humility and great pride.”
- Total War Speech: This video has English subtitles so that you can understand Joseph Goebbels’ speech calling for total war in 1943.
- Sir Winston Churchill – Finest Hour: This photo montage accompanies audio of Winston Churchill’s “finest hour” speech, which he gave June 18, 1940, and in which he asked the British to help him fight so that they would not enter into “a new dark age.”
- Adolf Hitler, Expand Speech: Watch Hitler’s speech about expansion and justification of war.
- Eisenower’s military industrial complex speech: Watch and listen to President Eisenhower warn against te “emergency improvisation of national defense.”
- We Shall Fight on the Beaches, Winston Churchill: Listen to Churchill’s signature British mumble as he rallies his country to fight in World War II.
These miscellaneous political speeches are from figures like Jesse Jackson, Margaret Thatcher and Ted Kennedy.
- The Dream Shall Never Die: Senator Edward Kennedy speaks at the 1980 Democratic National Convention shares one of his favorite Tennyson quotes and tells Americans that “the dream shall never die” even though he will not run for president.
- Jesse Jackson David and Goliath speech: Then Presidential candidate Jesse Jackson delivers this famous speech at Tendley Baptist Church January 16, 1984.
- Tony Blair resignation speech: Powerful but ultimately unpopular Primte Minister Tony Blair gives his resignation speech on June 27, 2007, here.
- Senator Barack Obama’s DNC speech: Presidential candidate Barack Obama gives this major speech at the 2008 DNC in Denver, officially accepting the nomination for president.
- William Jennings Bryan Cross of Gold Speech: Listen to audio of William Jennings Bryan’s 1923 speech in which he spoke about the gold standard and silver mining.
- Margaret Thatcher’s first speech as Prime Minister: Watch Thatcher’s controversial first speech as British PM in 1979.
- Mario Cuomo 1984 Convention Speech: This “tale of two cities” from Mario Cuomo at the DNC in 1984 attacks Reagan in a time of staunch conservatism.
(Thank you to Onlineuniversities.com for gathering these resources.)