17 Famous Recorded Speeches in History: Step Back in Time

June 4, 2023

19 min read

Famous Recorded Speeches in History

How many famous recorded speeches in history have you actually seen and not just heard about? Did you watch any of them live?

Recorded speeches allow us to relive history. We get to dive into the emotion of each landmark event and get a sense of the time and place. We gathered 17 speeches that will help you take a step back in time.

Famous Recorded Speeches in History

For each speech, we provide the key points and a video (some contain audio recordings). The key points are generated by the free Yoodli AI speech coach. (When you record or upload a speech, Yoodli provides you with a full transcript, key points, and analysis of word choices and delivery.)

Let’s take a look at these famous recorded speeches in history, from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first inaugural to George W. Bush’s bullhorn speech to emergency rescue workers on September 14, 2001.

#1: Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Inaugural Speech: “The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself”

Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his first inaugural speech on March 4, 1933, from the East Portico of the U.S. Capitol. The speech was broadcast live on radio to millions of Americans.

Roosevelt’s first inaugural is one of the most famous recorded speeches in history because it was a turning point for America. It marked the beginning of the New Deal, a series of programs and reforms that helped end the Great Depression. The speech also caused many people to put their faith in government.

Key Points

  • Roosevelt acknowledges the difficult circumstances faced by the nation.
  • He emphasizes the need to put people to work and implement immediate action for national recovery.
  • He says they must focus on the restoration of values, honesty, and honor in banking and business practices.
  • Roosevelt declares his dedication to the policy of being a good neighbor and respecting international trade relations.
  • He stresses the interdependence of the nation’s people on each other and the need to sacrifice for the greater good.
  • He recognizes the simplicity and practicality of the Constitution and its ability to adapt to extraordinary needs.
  • Roosevelt expresses his willingness to recommend measures and exercise executive power in the absence of congressional action if it were necessary to meet the national emergency.

#2: Winston Churchill’s “Blood, Sweat, and Tears” Speech

Winston Churchill delivered his “Blood, Sweat, and Tears” speech to the UK’s House of Commons on May 13, 1940, just days after the German invasion of France. Churchill rallied the British people to resist the Nazi invasion and vowed to fight on until victory.

The “Blood, Sweat, and Tears” is one of the most famous recorded speeches in history because it helped inspire the British people to continue fighting during the darkest days of World War II. It’s still remembered today as a powerful call for courage and determination.

Key Points

  • Churchill received a commission to form a new administration.
  • The administration includes all parties both supporting and opposing the previous government.
  • Churchill formed a war cabinet of five members representing the unity of the nation and including the three party leaders.
  • He expects the appointment of the other ministers to be completed soon.
  • The urgency of the situation required immediate action.
  • The House was summoned to meet today.
  • He asks for confidence in the new government.
  • Preparations for the war are in progress, and he expects many long months of struggle and suffering.
  • His government’s policy is to wage war by sea, land, and air with all possible strength.
  • The aim is victory at all costs, without which there’s no survival for the British Empire and humanity’s goal will not be realized.
  • Churchill is optimistic about the cause, and he invites everyone to go forward together.

#3: Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Speech After the Attack on Pearl Harbor: “A Date Which Will Live In Infamy”

On December 8, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed a joint session of Congress to request a declaration of war against Japan. The speech came one day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

This speech is among the most famous recorded speeches in history and one of the most important. A turning point for the world, it marked America’s entry into World War II, which would ultimately lead to the defeat of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

Key Points

  • Roosevelt describes December 7, 1941, as a date which will live in infamy.
  • The United States of America was attacked by the empire of Japan.
  • The US was at peace with Japan before the attack.
  • The Hawaiian Islands suffered severe damages, and American lives were lost.
  • Roosevelt asserts that the American people will persevere to absolute victory.
  • The president asks Congress to declare a state of war with the Japanese Empire.

#4: Dwight Eisenhower Warns Americans of the Military Industrial Complex

On January 17, 1961, Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered his farewell address to the nation as president. He warned of the dangers of the military-industrial complex, which he believed posed a threat to democracy, as it could lead to the government becoming too dependent on the military and the arms industry for its economic and political well-being.

Key Points

  • President Eisenhower acknowledges the need for a permanent military establishment. But, he warns that it will come at a terrible cost if it continues to grow unchecked.
  • The cost of modern military technology is too high and takes resources away from important public needs such as schools, power plants, and hospitals.
  • Eisenhower’s father believed that war takes necessities away from the poor and homeless.
  • Eisenhower was fighting with the Pentagon and Congress because they were approving too many military programs that were out of control, and he feared their influence.
  • He warns about the military-industrial complex and the potential for misplaced power and influence in the government.
  • The development of the defense establishment is necessary, but the country must guard against unwarranted influence.

#5: John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address: “Ask Not”

John F. Kennedy’s delivered his inaugural address on January 20, 1961. He outlined his vision for America and called for a new era of American leadership in the world. The speech was a powerful and inspiring call to service, and it helped to define Kennedy’s presidency.

Kennedy’s inaugural address is a classic example of American political rhetoric. The speech is full of powerful imagery and memorable phrases. Kennedy’s “ask not” line has become one of the most famous lines in American history.

Kennedy’s inaugural address is one of the most famous recorded speeches in history because it helped define Kennedy’s presidency and it continues to inspire Americans today.

Key Points

  • Kennedy takes an oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.
  • The world has changed. But, the revolutionary belief that the rights of man come not from the state but from the hand of God is still at issue around the globe.
  • Kennedy promises to pay any price and meet any hardship to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
  • He pledges loyalty to old allies and offers a special pledge to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty.
  • He promises to oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the Americas but encourages cooperation with all nations.
  • He urges both sides of the conflict to find common ground and create a world of law where the strong are just, the weak are secure, and the peace is preserved.
  • Kennedy welcomes the responsibility of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger and urges fellow citizens to ask not what their country can do for them but what they can do for their country.
  • The final goal is to lead the land and do God’s work, knowing that history will be the final judge of deeds.

#6: John F. Kennedy’s “We Choose to Go to the Moon” Speech

On September 12, 1962, President John F. Kennedy delivered a speech at Rice University in which he outlined his vision for the future of space exploration. It served as a call to action for the US to commit to landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

Kennedy’s speech was met with a mixed reaction. Some people praised Kennedy for his boldness, while others criticized him for setting an unrealistic goal. However, the speech helped galvanize American support for the space program, and it ultimately led to the US landing a man on the moon in 1969.

Key Points

  • The United States must “commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”
  • Space exploration is “a new frontier of knowledge and adventure,” and the US must “lead in this great adventure.”
  • The Apollo program will “serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, to test our courage and our determination, to make us bolder, to stimulate our imaginations, and to add new meaning to that vital American spirit of exploration and discovery.”

#7: John F. Kennedy’s “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” Speech

On June 26, 1963, President John F. Kennedy delivered a speech in West Berlin, Germany. The speech was a powerful show of support for the people of West Berlin, who were living under the threat of Soviet invasion.

Kennedy’s speech was met with a rapturous reception by the people of West Berlin. The speech is one of the most famous recorded speeches in history because of the hope it provided to those who yearned for freedom.

Key Points

  • Kennedy highlights the differences between the free world and the communist world.
  • Berlin is a symbol of those differences, and all free men are citizens of Berlin.
  • Communism is not the wave of the future and is an evil system.
  • Economic progress is not enough reason to support communism.
  • Kennedy takes pride in being a free man and being associated with Berlin.
  • The speech reflects on the president and the upcoming renaming of the square in Berlin in his memory.

#8: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” Speech

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The speech was a powerful call for racial equality and an end to segregation.

King’s speech was met with a rapturous reception by the crowd, and it is considered to be one of the most important speeches in American history. The speech helped to galvanize the civil rights movement and to bring about important changes in American society.

Key Points

  • The speech is about joining together in the greatest demonstration for freedom in the nation’s history.
  • King has a dream that his 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.
  • King calls for faith and the ability to work together, pray together, and struggle together to achieve freedom.
  • He acknowledges the sacrifice of standing up for freedom and enduring imprisonment, but he sees it as a necessary step towards realizing their dream.
  • The speech concludes with a call for freedom to “ring” across the nation, ultimately leading to the day when all people of different races and religions can join together and sing in celebration of freedom.

#9: Lyndon B. Johnson’s Speech on the Vietnam War

On January 12, 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson delivered a speech to the nation about the Vietnam War. In his speech, Johnson defended the decision to escalate the war and called for continued American support for the South Vietnamese government.

Johnson’s speech was met with mixed reactions. Some people supported his decision to escalate the war, while others opposed it. The war in Vietnam would eventually become very unpopular, and it would be a major factor in Johnson’s decision not to seek re-election in 1968.

This speech is one of the most famous recorded speeches in history because it marked the beginning of a major escalation of the war and set the stage for years of conflict.

Key Points

  • Johnson acknowledges past wars and those who have served in them.
  • He recognizes those who are no longer alive to listen.
  • The Vietnam War is different from past wars.
  • War is always the same in this way: young men die, and killing is senseless.
  • Madness still exists in the world in the form of war.
  • There are other important issues to address. including education, healthcare, and poverty.
  • Johnson expresses his determination to end the Vietnam War and bring soldiers home.
  • America must remain strong in the face of security threats.

#10: Martin Luther King’s Last Speech: “I’ve Been To The Mountaintop”

On April 3, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his last speech from the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. He spoke about the importance of nonviolence and the need for economic justice. He also spoke about his dream for a world where all people are treated equally.

King’s speech was met with a rapturous reception by the crowd. However, less than 24 hours later, King was assassinated. His death was a major blow to the civil rights movement, but his legacy continues to inspire people all over the world.

Key Points

  • King wants America to live up to its founding principles.
  • The denial of First Amendment privileges is not acceptable.
  • The Freedom of Assembly and Freedom of Speech are important.
  • The right to protest for what’s right is what makes America great.
  • Despite facing difficult days ahead, King isn’t worried because he has “been to the mountaintop.”
  • Longevity is not important to King; he just wants to do God’s will.
  • Though he may not personally get there, the speaker believes that, as a people, they will reach the promised land.

#11: Neil Armstrong’s Speech From the Moon

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the Moon. As he took his first steps, he uttered words that would be written into history books for generations to come: “That’s one small step for [a] man; one giant leap for mankind.”

Although incredibly brief, we include this among the most famous recorded speeches in history because it was such a powerful and inspiring moment for the entire world. Armstrong’s speech is a reminder of the importance of exploration and discovery. It is also a reminder of the power of hope and the human spirit.

Key Points

  • The recording includes live commentary of the Apollo 11 space mission.
  • The astronauts land on the moon and describe the surface.
  • A speaker mentions the “engine stop” and “contact light” to confirm the safe landing.
  • The astronauts are about to exit the spacecraft and descend onto the surface.
  • A speaker provides a description of the surface.
  • The astronauts confirm with Houston a successful landing.

#12: Richard Nixon Resigns

Richard Nixon’s resignation speech on August 8, 1974, was a historic moment in American history. In his speech, Nixon announced that he would resign from the presidency due to the Watergate scandal. If he didn’t resign, he faced impeachment by the House of Representatives and a trial in the Senate.

Nixon’s resignation speech was a sad day for many Americans. However, it was also a day of hope. It showed that the American system of government was strong enough to withstand even the most serious challenges.

Key Points

  • Nixon begins by discussing his history of addressing the nation on matters affecting national interest.
  • He addresses the Watergate scandal and his decision to resign from the presidency.
  • He acknowledges that he no longer has a strong enough political base in Congress to justify continuing his term.
  • Nixon expresses regret for not being able to complete his term but prioritizes the interest of America over personal considerations.
  • He discusses the goals and achievements of his presidency, including ending the Vietnam War, improving relations with China and the Soviet Union, and fighting poverty.
  • He emphasizes the importance of working towards peace and prosperity without inflation.
  • Nixon concludes with a pledge to continue working towards the cause of peace and hoping that his legacy would contribute towards a safer and more peaceful world.

#13: Margaret Thatcher’s”The Lady’s Not for Turning” Speech

Margaret Thatcher’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference on October 10, 1980, was a defining moment in her political career. She famously declared that “the lady’s not for turning,” a phrase that has since become synonymous with her determination and resilience.

Thatcher’s speech was a major success. It was widely praised by the media and the public. The speech was a major turning point in her relationship with the Conservative Party. It showed that she was willing to stand up for her beliefs, even in the face of opposition from within her own party. The speech also helped to solidify her reputation as a strong and decisive leader.

Key Points

  • Thatcher advocates for negotiation and diplomacy on the Falklands issue.
  • The government achieved significant legislative changes and debt repayment in the past 17 months.
  • The government’s top economic priority is defeating inflation.
  • The government is committed to finding a cure to the significant concern of unemployment.
  • People perceive the private sector, more than the public sector, to be bearing the burden of government policies.
  • Public spending should not increase as it can harm private businesses and lead to job losses.
  • Thatcher stresses independence, self-sufficiency, and not relying on excessive government spending.
  • A nation needs friends and allies to stay free and pay its own way in the world.
  • Healthy society and economy are mutually dependent.
  • Institutions are created by voluntary actions of the people.
  • The communist system is in crisis, and democracy has a place in Africa, as shown by Polish workers.
  • The British government believes in a robust defense policy and realism and resolve in foreign policy.
  • The government is committed to the European community and NATO.
  • Resisting extremism is crucial, and rebuilding the fortunes of the free nation is the duty to be done.

#14: Ronald Reagan’s “Evil Empire” Speech

Ronald Reagan delivered his “Evil Empire” speech on March 8, 1983, at the National Association of Evangelicals’ annual convention in Orlando, Florida. In the speech, Reagan referred to the Soviet Union as an “evil empire” and as “the focus of evil in the modern world.” The speech was controversial at the time, with some critics accusing Reagan of warmongering. However, the speech also had a number of supporters, who praised Reagan for his willingness to stand up to the Soviet Union.

Reagan’s “Evil Empire” is one of the most speech famous recorded speeches in history because it was a major turning point in the Cold War. It signaled a new era of American foreign policy, one that was based on the idea of a moral crusade against communism. The speech helped to rally American support for Reagan’s policies, and it played a role in the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union.

Key Points

  • Reagan emphasizes America’s commitment to personal liberty and criticizes secularism.
  • He urges the restoration of religion and prayer in schools, the protection of religious speech, and the right to life for all children.
  • America is in the midst of a moral and spiritual renewal, with no place for racism and totalitarian powers.
  • The nuclear freeze solution is not a genuine solution for peace.
  • Clear-minded action is necessary in the struggle between right and wrong, good and evil.

#15: Ronald Reagan’s Response to the Challenger Disaster

Ronald Reagan’s speech after the Challenger disaster on January 28, 1986, was a moving and heartfelt address to the nation. He expressed his condolences to the families of the seven astronauts who were killed in the accident, and he praised their courage and dedication. He also spoke about the importance of continuing the space program, and he vowed that the United States would not be deterred by this tragedy.

Reagan’s speech was widely praised by the public and the media. It was seen as a powerful and unifying moment in the wake of a tragic event. The speech helped to comfort a nation that was still reeling from the loss of its heroes, and it gave hope for the future of the space program.

Key Points

  • Reagan had planned to report on the State of the Union, but the events of the day changed his plans.
  • The tragedy of the shuttle Challenger is a national loss and one that’s deeply felt by everyone in the country.
  • The crew of the shuttle were aware of the dangers of their mission but overcame them and performed brilliantly.
  • The seven members of the Challenger crew were heroes who served all of us.
  • The United States space program has been wowing us for 25 years and we’re still pioneers in space.
  • Sometimes painful things happen in the process of exploration and discovery.
  • The future belongs to the brave, and the Challenger crew was pulling us into that future.
  • Our space program is open and public, and we won’t stop exploring space.
  • The dedication and professionalism of everyone who works for NASA has impressed us for decades.
  • The crew of the Challenger honored us with the manner in which they lived their lives, and we will never forget them.

#16: Ronald Reagan’s “Tear Down This Wall” Speech

Ronald Reagan’s speech at the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987, was a powerful and historic moment in the Cold War. In his speech, Reagan challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall,” referring to the Berlin Wall, which divided East and West Berlin. The speech was widely praised by the West and was seen as a major turning point in the Cold War.

The speech helped rally Western support for the cause of freedom and democracy, and it put pressure on the Soviet Union to change its policies. It was also seen as a personal challenge to Gorbachev, who was a new leader in the Soviet Union at the time. The Berlin Wall came down in 1989, just two years after Reagan’s speech. Its fall was a major victory for freedom and democracy, and it’s widely seen as a result of Reagan’s speech.

Key Points

  • Reagan pays tribute to previous American presidents who visited Berlin.
  • He addresses the division of Germany from the rest of Europe, including the Berlin Wall.
  • He highlights Berlin’s history, culture, and beauty despite the challenges it has faced.
  • Reagan acknowledges the struggle for freedom and encourages unity among the Western and Eastern parts of the city.
  • He discusses the importance of liberty, democracy, and free trade in creating economic growth and prosperity.
  • He acknowledges the importance of arms control and reduction to increase safety and peace.
  • Reagan invites East Germany to join the Western community to promote openness and cooperation.
  • He proposes practical steps to unite the city, such as expanding air access, hosting international meetings, and offering cultural exchanges for young people.
  • He concludes by emphasizing the importance of love, hope, and faith in overcoming challenges and achieving freedom.

#17: George W. Bush’s Bullhorn Speech to Rescue Workers After 9/11

On September 14, 2001, President George W. Bush visited Ground Zero, the site of the World Trade Center attacks, to meet with rescue workers and firefighters. In a speech delivered from a bullhorn, Bush praised the workers for their courage and dedication, and he vowed that the US would “hunt down and punish those responsible” for the attacks.

Bush’s speech was a powerful and emotional moment. It was a show of support for the rescue workers and firefighters who were risking their lives to save others. We include this as one of the most famous recorded speeches in history because it was essentially a declaration of war on terrorism. It was a rallying cry for the nation as well as a message of hope and determination in the face of tragedy. Bush helped unite the country and focus the nation’s attention on the war on terror.

Key Points

  • Bush acknowledges the tragedy of the loss of lives.
  • He expresses solidarity with New York City, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
  • He asserts that the rest of the world hears and supports America.
  • Bush promises that the people responsible will hear from America.
  • The nation sends its love and compassion.
  • Bush thanks everyone for their hard work and making the nation proud.
  • He ends by saying, “God Bless America.”

Wrapping Up

We know many other speeches could be featured, but we have to draw the line somewhere. We hope these have provided you with an informative and inspiring journey into the past.

Note: This post was created in partnership with artificial intelligence.


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