(4 of 4)
It would have been kinder to his reputation had he not returned. He was not an effective peacetime Prime Minister. His name had been made, and he stood unchallengeable, as the greatest of all Britain's war leaders. It was not only his own country, though, that owed him a debt. So too did the world of free men and women to whom he had made a constant and inclusive appeal in his magnificent speeches from embattled Britain in 1940 and 1941. Churchill did not merely hate tyranny, he despised it. The contempt he breathed for dictators--renewed in his Iron Curtain speech at Fulton, Mo., at the outset of the cold war--strengthened the West's faith in the moral superiority of democracy and the inevitability of its triumph.
Historian John Keegan is the defense and military specialist for London's Daily Telegraph.
Four of the Century's Greatest Speeches
JOHN F. KENNEDY
Delivered January 00, 1961 at Kennedy's inauguration
... In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger.I do not shrink from this responsibility--I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. . . .The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it--and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. 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. Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must be truly our own.
FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT
Delivered at inauguration March 4, 1933
... This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself--nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days...
Delivered before Parliament, June 4, 1940, after the successful Dunkirk campaign
...I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty...we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our island home ... .Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous states have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo..., we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender...
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR
Delivered during the March on Washington in front of the Lincoln Memorial, August 23, 1963:
... I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream...I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood... I 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.
...This is our hope...And if American is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! . . .From every mountainside, let freedom ring. When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"