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Top 100 American Speeches of the Twentieth Century

Source: The University of Wisconsin-Madison

Compiled by researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and Texas A & M University in 1999, this list reflects the opinions of 137 leading scholars of American public address. The experts were asked to recommend speeches on the basis of social and political impact, and rhetorical artistry.

Rank Title Speaker Date Place
1.“I Have a Dream” Martin Luther King, Jr. August 28, 1963Washington, DC
2.Inaugural Address John F. Kennedy January 20, 1961Washington, DC
3.First Inaugural Address Franklin D. Roosevelt March 4, 1933Washington, DC
4.War Message (“A Date which Will Live in Infamy”) Franklin D. Roosevelt December 8, 1941Washington, DC
5.Keynote Speech to the Democratic National Convention Barbara Jordan July 12, 1976New York, N.Y .
6.“My Side of the Story” (“Checkers”) Richard M. Nixon September 23, 1952Los Angeles, Calif.
7.“The Ballot or the Bullet” Malcolm X April 3, 1964Cleveland, Ohio
8.Address to the Nation on the Challenger Disaster Ronald Reagan January 28, 1986Washington, DC
9.Speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association John F. Kennedy September 12, 1960Houston, Tex.
10.Address to Congress on the Voting Rights Act (“We Shall Overcome”) Lyndon B. Johnson March 15, 1965Washington, DC
11.Keynote Speech to the Democratic National Convention (“A Tale of Two Cities”) Mario Cuomo July 17, 1984San Francisco, Calif.
12.Speech at the Democratic National Convention (“The Rainbow Coalition”) Jesse Jackson July 17, 1984San Francisco, Calif.
13.Statement on the Articles of Impeachment Barbara Jordan July 25, 1974Washington, DC
14.Farewell Address to Congress (“Old Soldiers Never Die”) Douglas MacArthur April 19, 1951Washington, DC
15.“I've Been to the Mountaintop” Martin Luther King, Jr. April 3, 1968Memphis, Tenn.
16.“The Man with the Muckrake” Theodore Roosevelt April 14, 1906Washington, DC
17.Statement on the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Robert F. Kennedy April 4, 1968Indianapolis, Ind.
18.Farewell Address Dwight D. Eisenhower January 17, 1961Washington, DC
19.War Message (“The World Must Be Made Safe for Democracy”) Woodrow Wilson April 2, 1917Washington, DC
20.Farewell Address at the U.S. Military Academy (“Duty, Honor, Country”) Douglas MacArthur May 12, 1962West Point, N.Y.
21.Address to the Nation on the War in Vietnam (“The Great Silent Majority”) Richard M. Nixon November 3, 1969Washington, DC
22.“Ich bin ein Berliner” John F. Kennedy June 26, 1963West Berlin, Germany
23.Plea for Mercy at the Trial of Leopold and Loeb Clarence Darrow Aug. 22, 23, and 25, 1924 Chicago, Ill.
24.“Acres of Diamonds” Russell Conwell 1900–1925 Delivered at many spots across the U.S.
25.Televised Speech on Behalf of Barry Goldwater (“A Time for Choosing”) Ronald Reagan October 27, 1964Los Angeles, Calif.
26.“Every Man a King” Huey Pierce Long February 23, 1934Washington, DC
27.“The Fundamental Principle of a Republic” Anna Howard Shaw June 21, 1915Ogdensburg, N.Y.
28.“The Arsenal of Democracy” Franklin D. Roosevelt December 29, 1940Washington, DC
29.Speech to the National Association of Evangelicals (“The Evil Empire”) Ronald Reagan March 8, 1983Orlando, Fla.
30.First Inaugural Address Ronald Reagan January 20, 1981Washington, DC
31.First Fireside Chat (“The Banking Crisis”) Franklin D. Roosevelt March 12, 1933Washington, DC
32.Address to Congress on Greece and Turkey (“The Truman Doctrine”) Harry S Truman March 12, 1947Washington, DC
33.Speech Accepting the Nobel Prize in Literature William Faulkner December 10, 1950Stockholm, Sweden
34.Statement to the Court Eugene V. Debs September 14, 1918Cleveland, Ohio
35.Address to the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women (“Women's Rights Are Humans Rights”) Hillary Rodham Clinton September 5, 1995Beijing, China
36.“Atoms for Peace” Dwight D. Eisenhower December 8, 1953New York, N.Y.
37.American University Speech John F. Kennedy June 10, 1963Washington, DC
38.Keynote Speech to the Democratic National Convention Ann Richards July 18, 1988Atlanta, Ga.
39.Address to the Nation Resigning the Presidency Richard M. Nixon August 8, 1974Washington, DC
40.“The Fourteen Points” Woodrow Wilson January 8, 1918Washington, DC
41.“Declaration of Conscience” Margaret Chase Smith June 1, 1950Washington, DC
42“The Four Freedoms” Franklin D. Roosevelt January 6, 1941Washington, DC
43.Speech at Riverside Church (“A Time to Break Silence”) Martin Luther King, Jr. April 4, 1967New York, N.Y .
44.“What It Means to Be Colored in the Capital of the United States” Mary Church Terrell October 10, 1906Washington, DC
45.Speech Accepting the Democratic Presidential Nomination (“Against Imperialism”) William Jennings Bryan August 8, 1900Indianapolis, Ind.
46.“A Moral Necessity for Birth Control” Margaret Sanger 1921–1922 Delivered several times for the American Birth Control League
47Commencement Speech at Wellesley College (“Choices and Change”) Barbara Bush June 1, 1990Wellesley, Mass.
48.Address to the Nation on Civil Rights (“A Moral Issue”) John F. Kennedy June 11, 1963Washington, DC
49.Address to the Nation on the Cuban Missile Crisis John F. Kennedy October 22, 1962Washington, DC
50.“Television News Coverage” Spiro Agnew 13 Nov. 1969 Des Moines, Iowa
51Speech to the Democratic National Convention (“Common Ground and Common Sense”) Jesse Jackson July 20, 1988Atlanta, Ga.
52.Speech to the Republican National Convention (“A Whisper of AIDS”) Mary Fisher August 19, 1992Houston, Tex.
53.“The Great Society” Lyndon B. Johnson May 22, 1964Ann Arbor, Mich.
54.“The Marshall Plan” George C. Marshall June 5, 1947Cambridge, Mass.
55.“Truth and Tolerance in America” Edward M. Kennedy October 3, 1983Lynchburg, Va.
56.Speech Accepting the Democratic Presidential Nomination (“Let's Talk Sense to American People”) Adlai Stevenson July 26, 1952Chicago, Ill.
57.“The Struggle for Human Rights” Eleanor Roosevelt September 28, 1948Paris, France
58.Speech Accepting the Democratic Vice-Presidential Nomination Geraldine Ferraro July 19, 1984San Francisco, Calif.
59“Free Speech in Wartime” Robert M. La Follette October 6, 1917Washington, DC
60.Address at the U.S. Ranger Monument on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day Ronald Reagan June 6, 1984Pointe du Hoc, Normandy, France
61.“Religious Belief and Public Morality” Mario Cuomo September 13, 1984Notre Dame, Ind.
62.Televised Statement to the People of Massachusetts (“Chappaquiddick”) Edward M. Kennedy July 25, 1969Boston, Mass.
63.“Labor and the Nation” (“The Rights of Labor”) John L. Lewis September 3, 1937Washington, DC
64Speech Accepting the Republican Presidential Nomination (“Extremism in the Defense of Liberty Is No Vice”) Barry Goldwater July 16, 1964San Francisco, Calif.
65.“Black Power” Stokely Carmichael October 1, 1966Berkeley, Calif.
66.Speech at the Democratic National Convention (“The Sunshine of Human Rights”) Hubert H. Humphrey July 14, 1948Philadelphia, Pa.
67.Address to the Jury Emma Goldman July 9, 1917New York, N.Y .
68“The Crisis” Carrie Chapman Catt September 7, 1916Atlantic City, N.J.
69.“Television and the Public Interest” (“A Vast Wasteland”) Newton W. Minow May 9, 1961Washington, DC
70.Eulogy to Robert Kennedy Edward M. Kennedy June 8, 1968New York, N.Y.
71.Statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee Anita Hill October 11, 1991Washington, DC
72.Final Address in Support of the League of Nations Woodrow Wilson September 25, 1919Pueblo, Colo.
73.Farewell to Baseball Lou Gehrig July 4, 1939New York, N.Y .
74.Address to the Nation on the Cambodian Incursion Richard M. Nixon April 30, 1970Washington, DC
75.“Address to the United States Congress” Carrie Chapman Catt November 1, 1917Washington, DC
76.Speech at the Democratic National Convention (“The Dream Shall Never Die”) Edward M. Kennedy August 12, 1980New York, N.Y.
77.Address to the Nation on Vietnam and the Decision Not to Seek Re-Election Lyndon B. Johnson March 31, 1968Washington, DC
78.Speech to the Commonwealth Club Franklin D. Roosevelt September 23, 1932San Francisco, Calif.
79.First Inaugural Address Woodrow Wilson March 4, 1913Washington, DC
80.“An End to History” Mario Savio December 2, 1964Berkeley, Calif.
81.Speech at the Democratic National Convention (“AIDS: A Personal Story”) Elizabeth Glaser July 14, 1992New York, N.Y.
82.“The Issue” Eugene V. Debs May 23, 1908Girard, Kans.
83.The Children's Era Margaret Sanger March 1, 1925New York, N.Y.
84.“A Left-Handed Commencement Address” Ursula Le Guin May 22, 1983Oakland, Calif.
85.“Now We Can Begin” Crystal Eastman Sept.–Oct. 1920 New York, N.Y.
86.Radio Broadcast of March 7, 1935 (“Share Our Wealth”) Huey Pierce Long March 7, 1935Washington, DC
87.Address on Taking the Oath of Office (“Our Long National Nightmare Is Over”) Gerald Ford August 9, 1974Washington, DC
88.Speech on Ending His Fast Cesar Chavez March 10, 1968Delano, Calif.
89.Statement at the Smith Act Trial Elizabeth Gurley Flynn February 2, 1953New York, N.Y.
90.Address to the Nation on Energy and National Goals (“A Crisis of Confidence”) Jimmy Carter July 15, 1979Washington, DC
91.“Message to the Grassroots” Malcolm X November 10, 1963Detroit, Mich.
92.Speech at the Prayer Service for Victims of the Oklahoma City Bombing Bill Clinton April 23, 1995Oklahoma City, Okla.
93.“For the Equal Rights Amendment” Shirley Chisholm August 10, 1970Washington, DC
94.Address at the Brandenburg Gate Ronald Reagan June 12, 1987West Berlin, Germany
95.“The Perils of Indifference” Elie Wiesel April 12, 1999Washington, DC
96.Address to the Nation on Pardoning Richard M. Nixon Gerald Ford September 8, 1974Washington, DC
97.“For the League of Nations” Woodrow Wilson September 6, 1919Des Moines, Iowa
98.Address to Congress after Assuming the Presidency (“Let Us Continue”) Lyndon B. Johnson November 27, 1963Washington, DC
99.Defense of Fred Fisher at the Army-McCarthy Hearings (“Have You No Sense of Decency?”) Joseph Welch June 9, 1954Washington, DC
100.“Adoption of the Declaration of Human Rights” Eleanor Roosevelt December 9, 1948Paris, France

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