At every pivotal moment in American history there has been a great speech. Speeches inspired the Revolution and healed the wounds of the Civil War. Speeches abolished slavery, won women the right to vote, and sent millions of Americans into wars overseas. At their best, speeches can frame the issues of the day and inspire the nation to great acts.
WORDS THAT CHANGED AMERICA brings together 100 of the most influential and important speeches in our history. Unlike most speech collections, which proceed chronologically, this volume organizes great speeches thematically to highlight and explore the perennial debates and core principles of our country.
In the chapter titled "Revolution," Patrick Henry demands liberty or death in 1775; Elizabeth Cady Stanton declares the self-evident truth that "all men and women" are created equal in 1848; and Martin Luther King describes his dream in 1963.
In "Free Speech," Elijah Lovejoy, an Abolitionist publisher, defends the freedom of the press in 1837--days before a pro-slavery mob will kill him for exercising it. Eugene Debs gives the defiant "Canton, Ohio Speech" opposing WWI, for which he is jailed.
In "America's Place in the World," George Washington warns Americans in his 1796 Farewell Address against entangling alliances with Europe. Woodrow Wilson declares war on Germany in 1917. Franklin D. Roosevelt draws America further into WWII with his "Arsenal of Democracy" speech. John F. Kennedy announces his commitment to human rights (and opposition to Communism) in his bold 1961 Inaugural Address. And Ronald Reagan stands at the Berlin Wall in 1987 and dares Mikhail Gorbachev to tear it down.
Rounding out speeches of clear historical importance are selections chosen for their depth, spirit, and humor. Eli Wiesel describes the dangers of indifference. Lou Gehrig, stricken with the disease that now bears his name, bids farewell to Yankees fans. And Mark Twain ponders the weather in New England.
The result is a vivid, engaging history of America, drawn in the words of the men and women who shaped it.show more