A speech is an oral communication by the speaker to send a message to the audience in order to convince them of the validity of the speaker’s argument, as in a persuasive speech. It is targeted at inspiring the audience to tell them that they can succeed as in case of an inspirational speech. Sometimes the purpose of the speech is to motivate the audience to prompt them to an action as in a motivational speech. In case of an informative speech, the purpose is to enlighten the listeners on a specific topic. A tribute speech is delivered to acknowledge the outstanding performances while acceptance speeches are made to say a word of thanks in response to the honors conferred upon the speakers. Women have spoken in order to achieve all of these objectives at different times, and they are valued records. In the earlier male-dominated societies, women were not extended the opportunities to speak and express their thoughts publicly. But many great events have culminated from the bold and inspiring oratory of women. Famous women speeches have been mentioned as early as in the Socratic dialogues. Women have spoken and inspired humanity, armies, and civil society in war and peace the world over, and many are remembered as important milestones of history.
1. Speech of Queen Elizabeth ÃŽâ„¢ to Troops
On August 19, 1588, Queen Elizabeth ÃŽâ„¢ delivered a speech of historical importance to the English Army at Tilbury near London. Its purpose was to motivate the English troops to be prepared and succeed against the imminent Spanish Armada’s invasion. She said, ‘My loving people’¦I am come amongst you, as you see at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved in the midst and heat of battle to live and die amongst you all; to lay down for my God and for my kingdom and my people my honour and my blood, even in the dust. I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and to think foul scorn that Parma or Spain or any prince of Europe should dare to invade the borders of my realm’¦’
2. Speech of Queen Elizabeth II on the death of Princess Diana
The death of Princess Diana sent a huge wave of shock, particularly in Britain, and generally throughout the world. Queen Elizabeth II expressed her feelings in her speech on September 9, 1997 saying, ‘ ‘¦ First, I want to pay tribute to Diana myself. She was an exceptional and gifted human being. In good times and bad, she never lost her capacity to smile and laugh, nor to inspire others with her warmth and kindness. I admired and respected her for her energy and commitment to others, and especially for her devotion to her two boys.’
3. Marie Curie’s Speech on the Discovery of Radium
Having discovered radium, Marie Curie delivered a speech at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY on May 14, 1921. Describing radium, she said, ‘We must go back to the year 1897. Professor Curie and I worked at that time in the laboratory of physics and chemistry where Professor Curie held his lectures’¦ Now the special interest of radium is in the intensity of its rays which are several million times greater than uranium rays. The most important property of the rays is the production of the physiological effects on the cells of the human organism. These effects may be used for the cure of several diseases.’
4. Mother Teresa’s Nobel Lecture Speech
Mother Teresa delivered her Nobel Lecture Speech at Oslo, Norway on December 11, 1979. To start with she desired to pray the prayer of St. Francis Assisi. After warming the hearts she said, ‘He died on the cross to show that greater love, and he died for you and for me and for that leper and for that man dying of hunger, and that naked person lying in the street not only of Calcutta, but of Africa, and New York, and London, and Oslo, and insisted that we love one another as he loves each one of us.’ Her speech was one of the most heart-touching speeches ever delivered by a woman.
5. Princess Diana’s Speech on Landmines
On June 12, 1997, Princess Diana delivered her famous speech on landmines in the Conference on Landmines convened by the Mines Advisory Group and the Landmines Survivors’ Network. The opening, body, and conclusion of the speech constitute a classic example for the learners of oratory. Right in the very beginning she laid the emphasis on the five ‘L’s’ of the topic; Land, Landmines, Life, Limb, and Little awareness of the issue. She said that, ‘In Angola, one in every 334 members of the population is an amputee!’ She said, ”¦the world is so little aware of the waste of life, limb, and land which antipersonnel landmines are causing among some of the poorest people on Earth’¦ I was in Angola in January with the British Red Cross, a country where there are 15 million landmines in a population, Ladies and Gentlemen, of 10 million–with the desire of drawing world attention to this vital, but hitherto largely neglected issue.’
6. Jane Fonda Speech
Jane Fonda is the famous American actress, fashion model, and political activist. During her 50-year career as an actress, she has received two Academy Awards and won many other awards too. She addressed the American Servicemen on August 22, 1972, through a broadcast over Radio Hanoi. She spoke about her experience in Vietnam, ‘Artists here are translating and performing American plays while U.S. imperialists are bombing their country’¦ I cherish the way a farmer evacuated from Hanoi, without hesitation, offered me, an American, their best individual bomb shelter while U.S. bombs fell nearby. The daughter and I, in fact, shared the shelter wrapped in each others arms, cheek against cheek’¦I thought, ‘this is a war against Vietnam, perhaps, but the tragedy is America’s”¦One thing I have learned beyond a shadow of a doubt since I’ve been in this country is that Nixon will never be able to break the spirit of the people’¦’
7. Benazir Bhutto’s Speech
Former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, delivered a speech at Beijing, China on September 4, 1995. Addressing the audience as ‘My dear sisters, ladies and gentlemen!’ She said, ‘There is a moral crisis engulfing the world as we speak, a crisis of injustice and inaction, a crisis of silence and acquiescence. The crisis is caused by centuries and generations of oppression. This conference, therefore, transcends politics and economics. We are dealing with a fundamental moral issue. This is a truly historic occasion. Some 40,000 women have assembled here to demand their rights’¦’
8. Indira Gandhi’s Speech
Former Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, delivered a speech in New Delhi, India on January 24, 1969, and paying tribute to the late Dr. Luther King, she said, ‘We admired Dr. King. We felt his loss as our own. The tragedy rekindled memories of the great martyrs of all time who gave their lives so that men might live and grow.’
9. Speech of Athenian Aspasia
Although not available in conventional form, Aspasia’s speech is considered among the most famous speeches of women in earliest recorded history. Aspasia was the closest person to the great democratic Athenian leader, Pericles. He was, at times, looked down upon by Athenians for treating Aspasia at par while according to them only the bedroom and dining room were the best achievable places for women. Her speech appears in Socratic dialogues recorded by Plato. She speaks, ‘If your neighbor has gold that was purer than yours,’ she asked Xenophon’s wife, ‘would you rather have her gold or yours?’ ‘Hers’ was the reply. ‘And if she has a better husband than yours?’ At the woman’s embarrassed silence, Aspasia began to question her husband.
10. Lucy Stone’s Speech
Lucy Stone was born on August 13, 1818 and died on October 13, 1893. She delivered her first speech on Women’s Rights from the pulpit of her brother’s church. It was an impressive speech, and the American Anti-Slavery Society hired her to speak on its behalf. She traveled countrywide and made speeches on slavery and women’s rights.
Color, creed, rank and file of the speaker have an undeniable bearing on the value of speech, but what counts most is none of them. It is, in fact, the content, the occasion, manner of delivery, and type of audience that determines the value of a speech. Golden words spoken before a non-receptive audience are just a futile exercise, while a few sincere words spoken to a receptive audience in the right way at the right time make them memorable on account of the effect they produce instantly and the lingering aftereffects and impressions they leave on the pages of history.