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Last Updated on February 25, 2020

21 Uplifting and Powerful Famous Speeches That You Can’t Miss

21 Uplifting and Powerful Famous Speeches That You Can’t Miss

Life is not always rainbows and sunshine – we have all had days when nothing seems to be going as planned and when we find ourselves demotivated, bogged down and engulfed in sadness. On such days, when you are unable to motivate yourself, do you know what helps? Listening to great speeches — empowering ones.

Great communicators have this innate power of moving you with their brilliant command over words. Their words echo in your head for days, while filling you with hope and inspiration.

Isn’t it wonderful how just hearing a set of people who you’ve never met or known personally can leave you with such a lasting impression?

Here is a list of 21 famous speeches (and likely the best speeches) that are sure to give you goosebumps :

1. Steve Jobs’ Commencement Address at Stanford University, 2005

The Chairman and Co-Founder of Apple Inc., Steve Jobs delivered an inspiring commencement address at the graduation ceremony of the 114th batch of Stanford University. 13 years later, his speech still holds relevance.

In a span of 15 minutes, Jobs imparted crucial life lessons through 3 stories that were inspired from his personal experiences. From love and loss to the inevitability of death – his words resonated with people of all ages.

Ending on a high note, he advised the audience to “stay hungry, stay foolish” – a phrase that became synonymous with Steve Jobs and till today, drives people to push themselves to become better versions of themselves.

2. J.K. Rowling’s Commencement Address at Harvard University, 2008

Author J.K Rowling who is best known for the Harry Potter book series delivered an empowering speech to the graduating class at Harvard University in 2008. Her speech was centered around two key points.

First being the benefits of failure and how there can be no success without it. Second, was the power of imagination and how we carry all the power in ourselves to change the world.

Even though J.K Rowling might have touched upon topics that we have been listening to or reading about for years, her knack of putting it together so perfectly strikes a chord like nothing else.

3. Jim Carrey’s Commencement Address at Maharishi University, 2014

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Jim Carrey, who is known for his splendid comic timing and exceptional performances, took everyone by surprise at the graduation ceremony of the class of 2014 at Maharishi University wherein he delivered an inspiring speech with such aplomb.

In his life-changing advice wrapped in wit and humor, he speaks of fear, failure and the importance of doing what we love.

4. Barack Obama’s Election Victory Speech, 2008

Who doesn’t remember Obama chant “Yes we can!” as the entire world looked on and watched him inspire and instill national pride in the people of the United States of America.

One of the most powerful speeches of recent times, Barack Obama’s election victory speech in 2008 marked a historic moment that brought hope, promised change and responsibility, in the anticipation of a better future.

5. Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech, 1963

On 28th August 1963, Martin Luther King delivered one of the most iconic speeches in history during the March on Washington in front of over 250,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial.

An American activist, Martin spoke with utmost clarity and purpose as he made a plea for racial equality and justice through this speech. The words “I have a dream” reiterated his vision of what America could be – a country that breaks away from the shackles of discrimination.

6. Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘Do or Die Speech, 1942

Talking about orators, one cannot leave Mahatma Gandhi out from the list. Gandhi, the pioneer of non-violence launched the Quit India movement to demand India’s freedom from the 200-year British colonial rule wherein he announced the slogan – Do or Die, with determination.

His speech oozed infectious passion which went on to inspire India to fight for freedom or die in the process.

7. Nelson Mandela’s ‘I Am Prepared to Die’ Speech, 1964

The torchbearer of Africa’s freedom, Nelson Mandela fought all his life against apartheid. During his 3-hour long speech as a defendant at the Rivonia trial, he uttered the powerful words “I am prepared to die” which showed how he was willing to go to any length to grant equality to the people of Africa.

Even though he got imprisoned for 27 years shortly after, his speech did leave a tremendous impact.

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8. Ellen DeGeneres’ Commencement Address at Tulane University, 2009

The multi-talented Ellen DeGeneres never fails to disappoint with whatever she does and the same can be said about her commencement address at Tulane University, where she shared her experiences and learning with the graduating class.

From quoting Lady Gaga to speaking about the major turning points in her life – Ellen kept the audience hooked with her uplifting speech.

9. Michelle Obama’s Commencement Address at Eastern Kentucky University, 2013

Michelle Obama addressed the 2013 graduating class of Eastern Kentucky University. She challenged the graduates to seek and learn from different perspectives and turn their weaknesses into strengths, just the way she did.

She also highlighted the importance of volunteering in community services and the impact it has on our lives.

10. Sheryl Sandberg’s Commencement Address at Harvard Business School, 2012

Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg imparted wisdom to the graduating class of 2012 of Harvard Business School.

While drawing parallels to her own experiences, Sheryl shared observations and precious advice with the students. She ended the speech on a humorous note as she said,

“Tomorrow, you get something that Mark Zuckerberg does not have. A Harvard degree.”

11. Oprah Winfrey’s Commencement Address at Harvard University, 2013

Oprah Winfrey is known to stir people’s emotions and motivate them with her powerful words. During her commencement address at Harvard, she emphasized on learning from mistakes and embracing failure, while reflecting on the setbacks she faced. Her encouraging words serve as a reminder to never let failure bog you down.

12. Bill Gates’ Commencement Address at Harvard Business School, 2007

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Microsoft founder, Bill Gates addressed Harvard Business School’s class of 2007, urging them to change the world, eradicate poverty and tackle inequality. He emphasized on the role of technology in putting an end to global issues and encouraged students to take risks and not get intimidated by ‘complexities’.

13. Malala Yousafzai’s Address at the UN Youth Takeover, 2013

Activist Malala Yousafzai is an inspiration to many and her speech at the first ever UN Youth Takeover further reinforces that.

Malala, who was just 16 years old then, stunned the audience with her powerful and moving take on the right to quality education. Having seen difficult times during her childhood, she was determined to fight for what she believed in and inspire a change.

14. Winston Churchill’s ‘We Shall Fight on the Beaches’ Speech, 1940

Another famous speech is that delivered by Winston Churchill, on 4th June 1940 to the House of Commons. The speech was meant to instill courage in the people during World War II, while the threat of Nazi invasion loomed over England.

He kept his speech concise, realistic and to the point as he reminded everyone about the strength and perseverance England has always exhibited.

15. Hillary Clinton’s Address at the Women in The World Summit, 2015

Calling women the ‘agents of change’, Hillary Clinton delivered a passionate speech at the Women in the World summit, speaking about the struggles women face in all walks of life due to unequal rights.

While remaining optimistic about seeing a positive change in future, she spoke about issues that often go overlooked such as equal pay, reproductive rights, paid maternity leave, living wage, LGBTQ rights, affordable child care among others.

16. Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, 1863

The Gettysburg Address, delivered by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, is known as one of the greatest speeches in the world and makes a fundamental part of American history.

In just 272 words, Lincoln made valid arguments surrounding equality and concluded with the famous line,

“government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

17. Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Your Elusive Creative Genius’ TED Talk, 2009

Known for the international bestseller, ‘Eat, Pray, love’, Elizabeth Gilbert gave an inspiring TED Talk wherein she shared her wisdom on creativity.

She spoke about the pressures it comes with and how one can go beyond what society says and connect with the ‘genius’ that resides in each one of us.

18. Jawaharlal Nehru’s ‘Tryst with Destiny’ Speech, 1947

The first prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru addressed India on the eve of independence with the speech, Tryst with Destiny. This historic speech celebrated the non-violent victory, acknowledging the struggle that had gone behind it and the belief he has in India, as a powerful, independent nation.

19. Mark Zuckerberg’s Commencement Address at Harvard University, 2017

The Founder and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg addressed the 2017 graduating class of Harvard University.

Being a Harvard dropout, Mark commenced the speech by recalling his times spent at Harvard and how they shaped him. His thought-provoking talk highlighted the importance of purpose – finding our own and creating one for others. He left the audience with practical advice that ranged from tackling global issues to building communities.

20. Gloria’s Steinem’s Women’s March Speech, 2017

Feminist icon, Gloria Steinem, addressed over 500,000 women who gathered at the Women’s March in Washington DC, with fearlessness and conviction.

She took on topics plaguing the society such as the role of women in the world and equal rights, while sending a bold message to the government to not undermine the power of women.

21. Denzel Washington’s Commencement Address at University of Pennsylvania, 2011

“Fall forward,” – the two words that encompassed Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington’s commencement address at University of Pennsylvania in 2011. He encouraged students to take failure in the right spirit and never let it discourage them. He beautifully summarized why we must embrace failure, while recalling experiences during his growing up days.

Final Thoughts

Even though these best speeches stem from different premises, what binds them together is the wonderful feeling they leave you with.

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Each of these famous short speeches contains the power to strike an emotional chord and help you find your feet amidst all the chaos. So, take a page from their books and let their words inspire you to keep going and never lose hope.

More Inspiring Thoughts

Featured photo credit: Matthias Wagner via unsplash.com

More by this author

Adela Belin

Writes about motivation, mental health, personal development and shares stories inspired by her personal journey.

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Published on December 2, 2020

6 Surefire Tips to Build Self-Confidence That Is Unstoppable

6 Surefire Tips to Build Self-Confidence That Is Unstoppable

Aren’t we all just supposed to “fake it till we make it“? Isn’t that the key to success, how we should build self-confidence? Millions of books proclaim this diatribe each year. We’re told to plaster on a smile, don the latest fashion, and give ourselves positive pep talks in the mirror each morning.

If you’re anything like me, you have read hundreds of self-help books and tried to catch the confidence bug. You might have even tried to tap into your inner Tony Robbins and cover your apartment with thousands of positive post-it notes. But, after about a week of positivity, you don’t feel more confident. In many ways, you feel more confused.

Building self-confidence isn’t a formulaic process––it’s an individual process. It has to feel right and comfortable. It should fit like sweatpants, not skinny jeans. This means that, if we want to improve ourselves, we have to know and accept ourselves.

If you’re tired of decorating your home with inspirational quotes or adding one more self-help book to your collection, this article is for you. I’ll give you the six practical tips that you need to build self-confidence and self-acceptance. Let’s get you started on this journey.

1. Accept Who You Are

You will never receive enough applause or accolades that will make up for your insecurity. If you want to build self-confidence, then you need to own who you are and learn to stand up tall in your shoes before adding more accessories to your personality. After all, confidence is not about being the most decorated; it’s about being comfortable in your skin.

If you want to build self-confidence, then you need to take the time to celebrate your distinct personality. Take a moment to learn about your strengths and your weaknesses, and be at peace with where you are––even if it’s not where you want to be.

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Self-confidence starts with accepting yourself––your strengths, weaknesses, and even your quirks. In many ways, it requires you to embrace your entire being. In essence, it’s giving the world your whole self and asking for nothing in return.

2. Accept That You Will Be Terrified (and That’s OK)

We all remember spelling bees when we were kids. We would listen intently and pray that we wouldn’t forget all the letters. As we uttered our guesses, our knees knocked, our peers stared, and sweat beat down upon our brow. This moment was torture––for everyone. It was terrifying having to stand in front of our entire classroom and scramble letters in rows.

Self-confidence isn’t a cure to fear. It’s not a unique combination of pixie dust that makes us invisible to conflict or struggle. In many ways, fear is the only way to experience self-confidence. Isn’t that great news? Okay, it’s not the most fantastic news, but it is comforting.

Think about it. If you want to get that promotion, you have to face your fear. If you audition for the lead on Broadway, you have to belt out Aida, even if you voice cracks. All of these moments are glorious because of fear. If there was nothing to face––no barrier to climb––then you would never experience the joy of success.

Self-confidence occurs when we embrace the fear and allow it to compel us forward.

3. Make Peace With Your Past

Take a moment to stand still and look back. Where you are now is not where you were––and that is a powerful thing.

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There’s something powerful about perusing through old photographs. We might cringe over our fashion choices and laugh at our crazy hairdos. However, we also experience the nostalgia of going back in time. For better or for worse, we can’t escape our journey when trying to reach our goal.

If you want to build self-confidence, you need to be willing to accept your past, even the parts that you want to forget. You might want to burn the negatives and forge ahead, but to move forward, you have to find peace with your past and your present.

Self-confidence is not pretending or performing––it’s making peace with who you were, who you are, and who you will become. In many ways, it’s accepting your experiences, taking responsibility for your mistakes, and figuring out how to move forward with healthy habits.

4. Be Happy for Others

One of the most significant ways to build your self-confidence is to celebrate someone else and take the pressure off yourself. Bask in the excitement of a friend or a colleague.

We all want to be happy for those around us, but it’s easy to be jealous. Sometimes popping another bottle of champagne for a friend seems like a monotonous chore.

If you struggle to celebrate others, you’re not alone. You’re not selfish; you’re self-conscious, and there’s a big difference. It’s impossible to applaud your friends or your colleagues when you can’t even accept the person staring back at you each morning.

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Many of us were raised in households to believe that accepting our strengths means being prideful. We learned to shy away from the spotlight and refuse credit for a job well done. There’s nothing wrong with being reserved, but if your preference for privacy projects upon those around you. You’re not humble; you’re raining on someone else’s parade.

Allow people around you to shine, and be their biggest fan. When you lift others, you celebrate their strengths without judging their weaknesses. When we take the time to be happy for those around us, it helps us celebrate our own victories build self-confidence.

5. Be Willing to Put in the Work

If you’re hoping to absorb and build self-confidence through the pages of another bestseller, I have one word of advice for you: put the book down and grab those weights, run on the treadmill, or lean into that stretch.

Here’s the deal: Self-confidence isn’t easy; it takes work. It doesn’t come in a Flintstone vitamin; it comes through sweat.

Building self-confidence requires everyone to workout, but not everyone will be working out the same way or at the same pace. Remember, building self-confidence is not about beating the competition. It’s about accepting who you are, improving yourself, and learning to trust in your knowledge and capabilities.

6. Don’t Let Your Childhood Scars Write Your Story

All of us have childhood scars, but we don’t have to carry them with us as adults. Even if you had a perfect childhood, your self-confidence was influenced by your personal experience.

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No one can claim your story, but all of us can empathize with some form of childhood struggle.

Our childhood experiences have influenced our psyche, our self-perception, and our ability to build self-confidence[1]. However, if we’re willing to see ourselves holistically, we’ll be able to live our lives authentically. It’s important to understand your journey as much as your goal.

Take a moment and write down everything that comes to mind when you receive compliments. Do you dismiss them? Do you base your entire self-worth on them? Write down your reactions and then process the reasoning behind your response.

You can do this exercise with a therapist, a trusted friend, or even on your own. If you’re willing to go back in your past and address your scars, you’ll be able to have a greater understanding of yourself and not be rocked by compliments or criticisms.

When you’re grounded in who you are, you’ll be able to experience life without fear and, ultimately, write your own story with self-confidence.

Final Thoughts

If you want to build self-confidence, remember that it’s a process. Don’t hurry to the finish line to get to the end of the race. If you take the time to accept yourself, fail forward, embrace the journey, and give yourself grace along the way, you’ll have everything you need to be more self-confident.

Take today and figure out who you are and who you want to be, and don’t lose your identity in the process. If you utilize these tools, you won’t have to fake it till you make it––you can make it without losing yourself along the way.

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Featured photo credit: Etty Fidele via unsplash.com

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