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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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Last Updated on August 10, 2020

What Is Life About? 9 Ways to Find Your Meaning in Life

What Is Life About? 9 Ways to Find Your Meaning in Life

What is life about? What is the meaning of life? Why do we exist?

Everyone, from ancient Greek Stoics all the way to modern lifestyle gurus, have answered these kinds of questions in an endless variety of ways. And yet, we still search for a satisfying answer.

Neither this article, nor any other one, can deliver a tangible solution to the curious case of life. And that’s okay!

The truth is, part of what makes the meaning of life so alluring is its engrossing diversity, mystery, and intangibility. However, it’s important to point out that the lack of a solid answer doesn’t mean it’s not worth looking for one. The search for what life is about is a journey that each individual person must embark on for themselves. Each person must look for their own, uniquely fulfilling answer to the question.

Fortunately, there are many different behaviors, ideals, and actions that humans have found over the centuries that can be excellent methods to draw us towards that final, inner conclusion of why we exist. Here are a handful of ways to kickstart the adventure of finding out just what life is really about.

1. Love People

Like life, love is one of the most commonly discussed yet, elusive things that humans encounter. Is it a behavior? A lifestyle? A person or object? A relationship with God? It’s used in all of these ways, depending on the context.

However, one thing that always remains is that love is a powerful force for good. Many of the most meaningful things in life are borne out of love — whether we’re loving things, others, or even ourselves.

One of the best ways to find the meaning of life through love is to practice connecting with our families. From parents and siblings to a spouse and children, loving our family is a powerful way to grow in our knowledge and appreciation of what life has to offer.

A spouse, children, friends, life partners, and strong platonic relationships provide a unique and powerful feeling that is difficult to find anywhere else. This is largely because they’re intimately connected to the eye-opening, natural desire to reproduce and leave our mark on the world through posterity.

2. Detox from Technology and Gain Perspective

Next up, we have the extremely important need to detox from time to time. Modern life is fraught with dangerously addicting distractions like social media, that can take up gobs of time without our ever even realizing it. And the effects can go beyond simply frittering away time. In fact, one study suggested that perhaps as much as a staggering 30% of divorces originate with Facebook interactions.[1]

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Life doesn’t simply happen in a vacuum, though. Once you’ve managed to disconnect from those devices and social profiles, it’s important to take that time and energy and redirect it towards a healthier mindset.

Spend time meditating, praying, and even simply dwelling on an attitude of gratefulness. Find things that you’re thankful for and make an effort to express appreciation for what you have on a regular basis (you know, rather than envying others as we scroll through our Facebook feeds).

One of the keystones to life that numerous wise men throughout history always hearken back to is the simple appreciation, gratefulness, and thanks that come with a good perspective.

3. Look for Meaningful Ways to Give Back

Donations and charities aren’t lacking these days. In fact, the phenomenon of charitable giving is at an all-time high. Awareness has skyrocketed in the age of information, and Americans gave a record-breaking $410.02 billion to charity in 2017 alone.[2]

But just because we know how to give doesn’t mean we’re really, truly invested in giving back to others. Real, honest giving doesn’t come out of personal abundance and overflow, nor does it typically take the form of a crisp dollar bill. It comes out of a desire to help others — a desire that can be huge in helping to get a healthy perspective of life.

If you want to find out more about life, consider genuinely giving back to the world around you. Don’t just scrounge up your extra cash and give it to a cause someone else is passionate about.

Find out where your own passions are. What needs and hurts in the world get your heart racing and your mind searching for a solution? Find those, then invest yourself. Give until it hurts. The results are exhilarating. This article can help you: How to Find Your Passion and Live a Fulfilling Life

4. Try a Hobby

While we’ve already talked about what we can do for others, that doesn’t mean a little self-care isn’t needed once in a while too. We’re not talking about indulging those shallow, fleeting desires like a bowl of ice-cream or a trip to the spa, though.

Small treats are perfectly fine, but they don’t go very far in helping us truly appreciate life itself. Instead, try looking for a new challenge.

A challenge can be the perfect formula for helping to open our eyes to the beauty of the world around us. They provide value without the perpetual responsibility and financial concerns that come with our careers and professional lives.

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Find a hobby that indulges your interests and simultaneously challenges your skills. Dive into a pursuit that has always intrigued or fascinated you, but you’ve never had the time to explore on your own. Practice a new instrument, go fly fishing, try painting, learn a language — the world’s your oyster! This list of 50 low-cost hobbies will inspire you.

If you’re thoughtful in your selection, you may even be able to pursue an interest that can inadvertently develop your life skills and possibly even add to your resume.[3]

5. Overcome Insecurities

Let’s circle back around to the personal, inner thoughts and behaviors. One of the critical elements to a life well lived — and thus better understood — is overcoming insecurities.

Let’s start by stating the obvious: Everyone has insecurities.

Sometimes those insecurities are a bit difficult to pin down and see for what they truly are. One of the best ways to rise above the fears and anxieties of life is to work on your insecurities. Try to practice mindfulness, look for thought patterns, analyze your behavior, and identify when you’re being influenced by insecurities.

The more you become aware of your own insecurities, the more you’ll be able to rise above them, prevent selfish behavior, and enable yourself to do things that would have been impossible before.

If you’ve been trapped in a job you don’t like, for instance, due to insecurities about financial failure or peer pressure, overcoming those insecurities at their roots will enable you to move on somewhere else, to ask for that promotion you’ve been eyeing, or even simply move horizontally within the company in order to find better work that better satisfies your personality and talents. [4]

6. Never Stop Learning

Twelve years of structured school (not to mention a mini-career arc through college after that) can leave many of us feeling like we’re done with academics, school, and learning in general.

But the truth is, learning should be a lifelong process. Healthy humans are always in a state of learning. They see what’s around them and want to learn more, understand more, and see why everything is the way it is.

This doesn’t mean you need to manufacture a desire to start reading textbooks on calculus in order to see what life is about. It’s simply an encouragement to start to take an interest in the world around you. Investigate, probe, and learn more about things that catch your interest, and your passion for learning will start to grow on its own before long.

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For instance, even if you pushed yourself all the way through a masters degree already, don’t close the book on your academic career quite yet. Consider going back to school (no matter your age) in order to get a post-master certificate. [5] This won’t just give you an edge in the professional arena; it will also serve as a way to satisfy that inherent desire to learn.

While that’s just one example out of many, the point is, it’s important to find ways to continue learning and growing on a regular basis.

7. Go Minimalist

It’s easy to hear about concepts like “minimalism” and think about extreme lifestyles, like Buddhist monks living in barren temples up in the mountains. But the truth is, minimalism is an easy lifestyle to adapt even in the cluttered, materialistic West.

If you take small steps like avoiding purchasing unnecessary new things, storing seasonal items, and generally decluttering, you can ease into a minimalist mindset without much trouble.[6]

This doesn’t just help with finances and your cleaning schedule, either. A life with less clutter often leads to a clearer, more grateful mindset. And a grateful mindset can be a key part of gaining deeper insight into what this life stuff is really about in the first place.

8. Travel

You saw this one coming, right? Those that seriously travel tend to gain a deeper perspective of life as a whole. The trick is, though, you can’t go into your travels as a fanny pack-touting tourist that’s only interested in “seeing the sights” and hitting up the pristine beaches.

Here’s a good litmus test for you: if you expect everyone to talk to you in your native language as you travel, you’re not in the right headspace.

If you take the time to travel, make sure to do so with the specific purpose of seeing the world outside of your own comfort zone. How are other cultures different from your own? How do other geographic areas affect how people live? What does a developing or war-torn country truly look like?

If you set out with this perspective, you’re much more likely to have your heart and mind opened in ways you never could have expected.

9. Try to Be More Aware

Finally, we have one last, gigantic call to action: be more aware.

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If a person can truly foster the ability to pay attention to everything around them, they develop the ability to break free from the self-centered mindset that all humans naturally slip into when we’re not paying attention.

Just to clarify, this isn’t a call not to pay attention to your own thoughts and needs. They’re important too. In fact, the Dalai Lama said,

“One must be compassionate to one’s self before external compassion.”

Whether it’s ourselves at first or others afterward, truly developing the ability to be aware of and empathize with the life that goes on in and around us is a critical part of understanding just why we’re all alive in the first place.

So, What Exactly Is Life About?

Hopefully, by this point, you don’t really expect an absolute answer to that question. On the other hand, you may not feel it’s a hopeless inquiry, either.

Remember, the reason we don’t have a good answer about what life is about is that it’s too complex to fit into words in the first place!

The complexities and nuances of a “good life” are so profound that they take an entire lifetime of exploration — both of ourselves and the world around us — to even begin to formulate an answer. And even then, we’ve typically only scratched the surface.

When you break it down, the meaning of life is so deep and valuable, it’s worth chasing, even if the end goal is only to catch a glimpse of the glory that keeps us all moving forward day after day.

More About the Meaning of Life

Featured photo credit: Emma Dau via unsplash.com

Reference

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