At a time when speeches take over the internet in the blink of an eye and are inspiring millions, we went back to the archives to rediscover the places that witnessed some of the world’s most historic speeches.
The visionary outlined his hopes for racial harmony from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C., to a crowd of over 2,50,000 civil rights supporters. The speech was regarded as a pioneering piece of rhetoric and Martin Luther King, Jr. won the Nobel Peace Prize a year later, at 35, becoming the youngest person to ever do so.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!”
One of the most defining moments of the gay rights movement in 1970s America is Harvey Milk’s speech at the Gay Freedom Day parade in San Francisco. Milk was a city supervisor and the first openly gay officer in the area. His speech delivered an unheard-of hope to the global LGBT community.
“The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us’es, the us’es will give up.”
Delivered to the Indian Constituent Assembly in Delhi on the eve of Indian Independence, August 14, 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru’s speech has been quoted ever-so-often in schools and annual Independence Day celebrations. The first prime minister’s speech marked the birth of a nation after a long struggle for independence.
“At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, then an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.”
British political activist and leader of the suffragette movement, Emmeline Pankhurst was a prime force in winning women the right to vote. In her endeavour for women’s rights, she sold her Manchester home in 1907 and went travelling across UK and USA, staying in hotels and the homes of friends, delivering speeches. This one is the most famous from her time in Hartford, Connecticut.
“In spite of a good deal that we hear about revolutionary methods not being necessary for American women, because American women are so well-off, most of the men of the United States quite calmly acquiesce in the fact that half of the community are deprived absolutely of citizen rights, and we women, in trying to make our case clear, always have to make as part of our argument, and urge upon men in our audience the fact – a very simple fact – that women are human beings.”
This three-hour long speech was given by Nelson Mandela as defendant from the dock of the Rivonia trial in Johannesburg, South Africa. At the time, he was president of the African National Congress and had not yet spent his 27 years in prison. It is a pivotal moment in the history of South African democracy.
“During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Fabiola Monteiro was formerly a member of National Geographic Traveller India's digital team. Since then, her words have featured in The Hindu, Mint Lounge, Roads & Kingdoms, The Goya Journal, and Condé Nast Traveller India. She tweets as @thefabmonteiro and is on Instagram @fabiolamonteiro.