By Mukurima Muriuki
We all know the power of well chosen words and the impact of powerful political speeches. Here is a list of my top ten speeches I cannot do without reading time and again.
10. Oliver Cromwell-April 20, 1653-House of Commons
He is regarded as a powerful as well as a controversial figure in the history of Britain. His vehement dismissal of the â€œrumpâ€ English Parliament was and still is one of the greatest political speeches that the world has ever heard
Excerpt:Â â€œIt is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonoured by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every viceâ€¦ ye are a pack of mercenary wretchesâ€¦Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess? Ye have no more religion than my horseâ€¦â€™Ye sordid prostitutes, have you not defilâ€™d this sacred placeâ€¦Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nationâ€¦â€™Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doorsâ€¦ In the name of God, go!â€
9.Jawaharlal Nehru-August 15, 1947, New Delhi
He is the first Indian Prime Minister of independent India. This speech was delivered at the stroke of midnight when the nation gained freedom after more than 200 years of British rule. What made the speech immortal was the phrase â€˜Tryst with destinyâ€™.
Excerpt:Â â€œLong years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.â€
8. Socrates-4th Century BC-Athens
He is arguably the greatest and well known Greek philosopher of his time and is also one of the best known of all times. Socrates was charged with corruption and misleading the people and his speech seeking not an apology but the honor of a dignified death is one of the most inspiring in history.
Excerpt:Â â€œWherefore, O judges, be of good cheer about death, and know this of a truth â€“ that no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death. He and his are not neglected by the gods; nor has my own approaching end happened by mere chance. But I see clearly that to die and be released was better for me; and therefore the oracle gave no sign. For which reason also, I am not angry with my accusers, or my condemners; they have done me no harm, although neither of them meant to do me any good; and for this I may gently blame them.â€
7. Mwai Kibaki- December 30, 2002-Uhuru Park
He had tried twice to be Kenyaâ€™s president but could not overcome the astute politician in Daniel Arap Moi. However, with the National Rainbow Coalition, with Kibaki as its presidential candidate, KANU could not stop him. In his inauguration speech at Uhuru Park, he rallied the country to unite and forge forward in one of the best speeches ever delivered on Kenyan soil.
Excerpt: I offer our competitors a hand of friendship. We have been through a long and sometimes bitter electioneering campaign. Now, the elections are over, there should be no bitterness. Let us all unite in forgiveness, reconciliation, and hard work to rebuild Kenya. Nation building requires joint efforts of all Kenyans. Let us work for our common destiny; and advance our common aspiration to bequeath a better country to our children.
6. Bill Clinton- September 11, 1998-White House.
This is a unique one as it was Bill Clinton talking to the world and pleading forgiveness as a result of the damning revelations about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. It is one of those speeches that make you realize that as human beings, there are times we shall err and an honest confession is enough to earn the respect of the world.
Excerpt: But I believe that to be forgiven, more than sorrow is required – at least two more things. First, genuine repentance – a determination to change and to repair breaches of my own making. I have repented. Second, what my bible calls a ”broken spirit”; an understanding that I must have God’s help to be the person that I want to be; a willingness to give the very forgiveness I seek; a renunciation of the pride and the anger which cloud judgment, lead people to excuse and compare and to blame and complain
5. Abraham Lincoln: November 19, 1863, Gettysburg Pennsylvania
President Abraham Lincoln addressed the nation with regards to the civil war seeking the support of the people to put an end to the unrest.
Excerpt:Â â€œFour score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war.â€
4. Mahatma Gandhi-February 4, 1916-Banaras Hindu University
This speech was given by Mahatma Gandhi to rouse the upper class of people in the country who were the dominant force in the freedom movement against the British. Citing the submissive nature of the struggle and the slack displayed by the ones responsible, his speech sought to bring the common Indian man into the struggle
Excerpt:Â â€œThere is no salvation for India unless you strip yourselves of this jewellery and hold it in trust for your country men.â€
3. Nelson Mandela: April 20, 1964-Pretoria South Africa.
He is a champion of the South African struggle against white domination and he was jailed for many years without reason. He delivered this speech at his trial.
Excerpt:Â â€œDuring my lifetime I have dedicated myself 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 live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.â€
2. Martin Luther King Jr: August 28, 1963-Washington.
This speech changed the course of American history and was the nail in the coffin of racism in the United States of America. This is why it is on top of the most powerful political speeches.
Excerpt:Â â€œI have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today! 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.â€
1.Barrack Obama-January 12, 2011-Tucson
Obama has many speeches worth mention but this came from his heart, and in the process he shed tears. After the shooting in Tucson that almost killed congresswoman Gabby Giffords, Obamaâ€™s speech sought to unite a country shocked by what a lone gunman had attempted to disrupt.
Excerpt We may ask ourselves if we’ve shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives. Perhaps we question whether we’re doing right by our children, or our community, whether our priorities are in order. We recognize our own mortality. And we are reminded that, in the fleeting time we have on this Earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame, but rather how well we have loved and what small part we have played in making the lives of other people better.