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Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ tops ‘greatest speech’ poll

Culture

Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ tops ‘greatest speech’ poll

A new UK nationwide poll has revealed the most powerful speeches of all time, with Martin Luther King’s 60-year-old, I Have a Dream speech, taking first place with 45 percent of the vote.

Delivered on the 28th of August 1963 in Washington at a Civil Rights March for Jobs and Freedom, King called for equal civil and economic rights and an end to racism in the United States.

The speech was said to have had an important role in helping pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and is seen as one of the most motivating addresses in history.

Second on the list, was Winston Churchill’s We Shall Fight on the Beaches speech (42 percent), from 1940, which aimed to counter the jubilant public reaction provoked by the evacuation from Dunkirk and remind them that the Battle of Britain was about to begin. As Churchill famously warns in the speech, “We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory.”

Also on the list of the most inspiring addresses, according to the research by insights agency Perspectus Global,  was Nelson Mandela’s 1964 speech, Prepared to Die (20 percent), made while in court as he faced the death penalty for sabotage, furthering communism and aiding foreign powers.

Margaret Thatcher’s 1980 speech “The lady’s not for turning!” is on the list. Pictured: Central TV PR – Thatcher at Central Nottingham Studios in 1988

HRH Queen Elizabeth II’s 2020 We Will Meet Again speech, a highly rare broadcast to the nation to rally the public in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, received 16 percent of the vote.

While Margaret Thatcher’s 1980 speech at the Conservative Party Conference, in which she famously declared “The lady’s not for turning!” took 13 percent.

Also, on the list of the most inspirational speeches of all time were Emmeline Pankhurst’s 1913 Freedom or Death oration (11 percent), and Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address of 1863 (10 percent).

Almost one in ten (8 percent) of the 2,000 adults surveyed were moved by Greta Thunberg’s 2019 UN address, in which she accused world leaders of stealing her dreams and her childhood. And one in twenty (5 percent) said that Tony Blair’s speech on entering 10 Downing Street in 1997 still sent shivers down their spine.

Caitlin MacLean of Perspectus Global:

“With party conference season upon us, we wanted to look at the most impactful and important speeches of all time, and it’s fascinating to see that a 60 year old speech from the American civil rights activist and Baptist minister Martin Luther King Jr is the one that moves Brits the most. It’s also interesting to see how the best speeches can cut through history, with Queen Elizabeth I’s speech from the 16th century still seen as important by modern Brits. It’s yet to be seen if any of the speeches at the party conferences will have such a lasting impact.”

Speeches can be powerful drivers of societal advancements, according to the poll, with 93 per cent of respondents claiming that a powerful speech can be a catalyst for change. And 77 percent of Brits have been brought to tears by an inspirational speech.

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