Pat Buchanan, political analyst
The Sermon on the Mount, which includes the Beatitudes, the Lord's Prayer, and the divine instructions on how men ought to live, if they wish eternal life.
Representative John Lewis (D-Georgia)
If humankind would only live by the words of Jesus in the Beatitudes, the world would finally be at peace with itself. That great speech is from another time, but its words ring true from generation to generation.
Robert Schlesinger, author, White House Ghosts: Presidents and Their Speechwriters
For sheer reach and influence, it’s hard to argue against Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It’s perhaps the central teaching of one of the world’s great religions, still studied and recounted not just in academia and religious institutions but by lay people all around the world.
James Carville, former campaign manager for President Bill Clinton
Although it does not have the same cache as the Sermon on the Mount, the Sermon on the Plain is a shorter and more cogent speech. Jesus was talking to people at his same level, rather than to people down the mountain.
Herman Edwards, football analyst, former NFL player and coach
I can remember watching Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech on television when I was 9 years old. King educated and inspired not just the people who were at the March on Washington, but America in general.
Melinda Gates, co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution” combines the beauty and power we associate with King’s oratory and a visionary argument about technology and morality.
Jim Harbaugh, head coach, San Francisco 49ers
For speeches of leadership and valor, there are none better than Winston Churchill’s speech before the House of Commons on June 4, 1940—“We shall never surrender!”—or Shakespeare’s Saint Crispin’s Day speech, delivered by Henry V before the Battle of Agincourt: “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; for he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.”
Mary Beard, classics professor, University of Cambridge
Cicero’s first speech against his political rival Catiline, in 63 B.C., has been a model for orators and protesters ever since. In fact, its first words—“How long will you abuse our patience, Catiline?”—were seen on opposition banners in Hungary less than two years ago.
Chris Anderson, TED curator
The best talk ever given at TED, judging by the length of the standing ovation, was the human-rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson’s “We Need to Talk About an Injustice.” In the 10 minutes after Stevenson finished, audience members committed $1 million to his advocacy organization by show of hands.
Steve Duck, professor of rhetoric, University of Iowa
For its effect at the time and its ability to speak to us today about leadership and bravery, the greatest speech has to be the one given by Queen Elizabeth I at Tilbury Docks in 1588 as she faced the Spanish armada and stirred her troops to England’s defense: “I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king.”