politics The Best Presidential Speeches of All Time  

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List Rules Upvote the greatest and most inspiring speeches given by US presidents.

Presidential speeches are often remembered for one great phrase, memorable line, or rhetorical flourish that makes its way into the history books. But they should be seen as more than collections of memorable words - in fact, as documents of their time and place. Great presidential speeches are made in the context of crises, challenges, and times of great peril. But they can also inspire, uplift, and encourage. The truly great speeches manage to do both at once.

What's less well-known about many of the great addresses by presidents that they're short. Maybe the most famous speech in American history, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, is just over two minutes long. Many others, rather than being long rambles of adjectives and superlatives, are fewer than one thousand words, and lasted just 10 minutes. They didn't need thousands and thousands of words to make their point, just a few well-chosen ones given by a dynamic speaker.

Here are the greatest and most inspiring presidential speeches of all time, be sure to upvote those that inspire you the most!
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2 people just voted on The Gettysburg Address


The Gettysburg Address is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Presidential Speeches of All Time
Photo: George Eastman House/Flickr
President Lincoln delivered his most famous speech just five months after the Battle of Gettysburg, at the dedication of the site's military cemetery. There is no existing final copy, and the five surviving manuscripts of the speech all have slightly different word choices. The speech was just 10 sentences long, and took two and a half minutes to deliver.

Famous quote:
"[W]e 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."
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FDR's Infamy Speech


FDR's Infamy Speech is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Presidential Speeches of All Time
Photo:  uploaded by Mike Rothschild
President Roosevelt's speech to a Joint Session of Congress the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor served to emphasize the idea of America as the victim of a cowardly sneak attack, rather than as a player in a complicated geopolitical struggle. Lasting just seven minutes, the speech let it be known that isolationism was no longer an option - and less than an hour later, the US declared war on Japan.

Famous quote:
"No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory. I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again."
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Reagan's Brandenburg Gate Speech


Reagan's Brandenburg Gate Spee... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Presidential Speeches of All Time
Photo: The U.S. National Archives/Flickr
President Reagan's speech at an event commemorating the 750th anniversary of the founding of Berlin was little noticed in the American press, and hotly criticized by Communist media outlets, who found it inflammatory. Even Reagan's staff were divided on the speech's tone and call to disarmament, but one key phrase in the middle of the speech stuck out, and became a rallying cry for Reagan's final year in office.

Famous quote:
“There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
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Kennedy's Inaugural Address


Kennedy's Inaugural Address is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Presidential Speeches of All Time
Photo:  uploaded by Mike Rothschild
President Kennedy's only inaugural address was one of the shortest on record, fewer than 1,400 words and taking only 13 minutes and 42 seconds. But it perfectly encapsulated the social change, economic prosperity, and political upheaval Kennedy was walking into.

Famous quote:
“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”
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Kennedy's "We Choose to Go to the Moon" Speech


Kennedy's "We Choose to G... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Presidential Speeches of All Time
Photo: NASA on The Commons/Flickr
While President Kennedy had declared the United States's intention to put a man on the Moon in May 1961, the idea didn't truly resonate with the American people until his speech in September of the next year. In front of a massive crowd at Rice University, Kennedy managed to make Americans enthusiastic about spending billions of dollars on a prospect with no guarantee of success.

Famous quote:
"But why, some say, the Moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? We choose to go to the Moon! We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard..."
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Washington's Farewell Address


Washington's Farewell Address is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Presidential Speeches of All Time
Photo: Wally Gobetz/Flickr
President Washington actually wrote a version of his farewell to the American people after his first term, but decided to run for a second given the precarious state of the country. It was first published in the American Daily Advertiser newspaper, then in papers and pamphlets around the country. Washington never actually gave the address as a speech.

Famous quote:
"With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts of common dangers, sufferings, and successes."
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Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address


Lincoln's Second Inaugural... is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Presidential Speeches of All Time
Photo: Brett Gullborg/Flickr
President Lincoln gave his second inaugural address on March 4, 1865, as the Civil War was reaching its bloody conclusion. With reconstruction between the North and South looming, Lincoln paused to take stock of what had been lost, and what could be gained. It was just 700 words long, and took around five minutes to deliver.

Famous quote:
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

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George W. Bush's Post 9/11 Speech


George W. Bush's Post 9/11 Spe... is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Presidential Speeches of All Time
Photo:  uploaded by Mike Rothschild
With the nation reeling in the wake of the September 11th attacks, President Bush addressed the country with a short but powerful message. Since the culprits behind the attacks were still unknown, Bush spoke to the resoluteness of the American spirit, and encouraged the people not to be overtaken by fear of what was ahead.

Famous quote:
"These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong. A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve."