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Last Updated on December 31, 2019

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 powerful, motivating speeches.

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 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 January 13, 2020

How to Use the 5 Minute Journal to Invest in Your Happiness

How to Use the 5 Minute Journal to Invest in Your Happiness

I was 10 and it was a white Lisa Frank journal with a red bubble gum dispenser on the front. It also came with a heart-shaped lock and key which was a must considering I had an older brother living under the same roof who was always looking for new and inventive ways to humiliate me.

That one little journal (okay…I called it a diary back then) unlocked a world of potential to me which quite literally became my saving grace, my happy place, for the rest of my life.

Over the years, the aesthetics of my journal evolved, as did my writing subjects and style thankfully. But the one thing that’s been constant is that, no matter how sad I am or how bad things have seemed before I started writing, somehow the world and my place in it always becomes clearer and less noisy after just 5 minutes of “writing it out.”

In this article, we will take a look at how investing a few minutes a day in the 5 minute journal can lead you to happiness.

The Benefits of the 5 Minute Journal

For most of my life, I never really knew or cared why writing for even 5 minutes made me happier, I just knew it worked.

If I was feeling lost or unhappy, I’d eventually realize I hadn’t written in a while (duh!). So I’d meet myself back at the blank page and word by word, start feeling more like me again.

To be completely honest, I did (and still do) this forgetting-to-journal dance way more often than I’d like to admit. For the life of me, I don’t know why I don’t keep doing the thing I know makes me happy every day instead of waiting until I’m unhappy to do the thing. Can you relate?

I’m pretty certain it’s not just a me thing: it’s a human thing. We know we’ll be happier if we eat better, exercise, disconnect from technology, get more sleep, etc. but often times, it takes us feeling unhappy in order to put in the effort to be more happy.

A couple of months ago, I found myself in that place:

I’d hit a wall of resistance around my business and a downturn in my health that caused me to doubt what I was capable of accomplishing. I was completely confused and indecisive about the direction of my business and where I should be focusing my limited energy, so I hired a coach to help me sort through my noisy brain.

As I laid out all of my decisions and endless to-do lists in front of her, she asked me an important question:

What’s one thing you can start doing everyday that will have a positive impact on all of these things?

In other words: What if instead of having to worry about ALL THE THINGS to be happier, you could just do ONE thing and everything else would get better too?

I could start every day with a few minutes in my journal.

It’s both hilarious and embarrassing that as a coach and a writer (and a coach who works with writers), that I hadn’t thought of this myself. Alas, as the saying goes, doctors are the worst patients.

Of course, the answer was writing in my journal! Isn’t the answer almost always the most obvious thing?

But sometimes, the answer is so obvious, so simple, so free and convenient that we convince ourselves that it can’t possibly do that much to improve our situation. Somehow in the busy-ness of life, I’d convinced myself I just couldn’t spare that time to do something so…(cringe) arbitrary.

Yet, as I thought about my coach’s question and the ONE THING that could positively affect all the things, I realized that journaling for me has always been so much more than a random outlet for exploring my feelings.

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Sure, nothing actually happened but me sitting on my bed in my pajamas writing. Over the years, from breakups to big moves, my most life-changing moments–like my decision to pursue writing as a career, to uproot my entire life and move cross country, and my finally feeling ready to become a mother–happened in the quiet moments between me and the pages of my journals.

How to Be Happy with the 5 Minute Journal

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine about writing this article. I asked her how often she journals and if she thought it made her happier.

In general, she said, yes, journaling does seem to help her get things off her chest but she doesn’t always feel better afterward. And, in fact, sometimes if she’s already in a negative place, she can spiral even worse while journaling and go to an even darker place.

She told me that usually with time and perspective, she can see that just the act of writing and getting out of her head is therapeutic but, suggested that for people like her, prompts to help her not spiral into the negative abyss would be super helpful.

And so, in order to make sure you get the most out of your 5 minute journal, I’ve broken up each writing prompt based on how you’re feeling so you can let your emotions guide the best prompt for you that day to increase your happiness meter.

1. When you’re burnt out, talk to your inner hero (a.k.a the “real” you).

What’s the one thing everyone tells you about maintaining happy, healthy relationships?

You’ve gotta have great communication!

But what about your relationship with yourself? How do you connect with you? How do you continue being the hero in your story?

The same way that you have to make the time to connect with the people in your life who mean the most to you, you also have to make the time for you to hear your voice:

To remember what YOU sound like amidst all of the noise in the world. To listen to your inner hero.

For me, the only way I know how to do this, the only way I’ve ever known how to do this, is through journaling.

Our brains can go down negative spirals, especially when we’re tired and stressed.

In my last Lifehack article about finding motivation, I walk you through some questions you can ask yourself about whether you’re playing the role of victim or hero of your story. Definitely check it out if you’re really on the brink, or in the midst, of some serious burn out.

Essentially, if you’re burnt out, you’ve somehow let your circumstances take control of your life. In other words, you’ve started to act like the victim instead of the hero.

Luckily, just 5 minutes in your journal can help you find your inner hero (your true voice) and reclaim your right to live your happiest life.

Write down these questions in your journal and answer them one at a time–permission to be 100% honest granted:

  • What do I believe is the #1 reason I’m feeling burnt out?
  • Who or what did I blame in my last answer?
  • Taking 100% responsibility for my own life and decisions, and casting blame on no one (including myself), how can I improve this situation?
  • What decisions am I currently making to stay in these circumstances (how am I choosing them)?
  • What new decisions can I start making to get closer to where I want to be?
  • What do I need to let go of in order to get my energy back? What do I need to say “no” to?

When you start to own your role of hero, you start to realize how your current choices and limiting beliefs may be holding you back from living the happiest version of your life.

The great news is once you realize your past choices have brought you to your current circumstances, you also realize that you can make different choices to bring you to a happier place.

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2. When you’re doubting yourself, write off the gremlins.

Whenever I’m feeling down on myself, it usually has less to do with what’s happening on the outside, and more to do of what’s happening between my ears. In other words, how “I’m” talking to myself.

We all have little shame gremlins (I call mine “Mean Girls”) who live inside of our heads and tell us we’re dumb and ugly and worthless. The only way to combat those noisy buggers is to expose them for the liars they are.

Writing down these lies makes them powerless. Once they’re out of your head and on paper, you realize how ridiculous they truly are (even though they were completely owning you just moments before).

I like to write out all the nasties and put them in their place (which is on the page and out of my head, pronto). Then I can go back to living my happy truth.

Here are some powerful questions to ask your inner gremlins (perhaps better known as you being a real jerk to yourself). Write down each question and answer them in your journal.

Ask your gremlins:

  • What are you saying about me? (Don’t hold back. Really write down all of the terrible thoughts you’re having about yourself)

Then ask:

  • Is anything true about each of the things I just wrote?
  • Repeat this same exercise for each of the nasty things your gremlins are saying about you and expose them in their lies once and for all.

When you’re done, answer these powerful questions:

  • Knowing what I know now, what’s one thing I can do to improve each of these areas of my life?
  • Knowing that the voices of the gremlins are strong, what are 3 new beliefs or positive affirmations I can say daily about myself to drown out their negativity?

For example, let’s use a fictional character of a guy named Sam. Sam’s gremlins are telling him “you’re a lousy parent, a terrible spouse, and mediocre at work.”

If Sam asks himself, “Am I really a lousy parent?” Maybe his answer is “No, I love my kids and I’m doing the best I can. I just wish I could be more attentive when I’m with them instead of so distracted by work.”

So maybe Sam decides to not bring his work computer home with him anymore and really unplug once he leaves the office so he can give his kids his full attention.

Sam decides that his new daily affirmation is: “I’m a loving father and am fully present for my kids. I save the best of me for my family.”

Imagine how much better you’ll feel when you start to take back control over your self talk and program in the messages that empower you and get you closer to the person you strive to be.

3. When you’re indecisive or afraid, talk to your fear.

Those same shame gremlins or mean girls inside of our heads feed off of fear. It’s like a good piece of gossip they can’t help but spread and exaggerate.

Luckily, when we write out how we’re feeling and what negative thoughts are spiraling, we can generally recognize when it’s actually just our fears talking.

You’re probably wondering how to tell if it’s fear talking or your intuition, right? This is where exploring your feelings comes into play.

Are you feeling powerless? Are you feeling anxious or sad? Everyone’s response to fear is different but it’s never a positive feeling.

If you’re at peace and calm but feel nudged that something isn’t right, that’s most-likely your intuition talking. But if you’re in a glass cage of negative emotions, you can bet fear is the culprit.

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Don’t hate on fear too much though. Our fears are just trying to protect us from something–the rub is they also usually keep us from something even better in the process.

I like to use journaling as a way to have a little talk with my fear, understand where it’s coming from and then decide if it’s worth listening to.

Here’s your journaling prompt for hashing it out with your fear:

Again, write down these questions in your journal one at a time and answer each one:

Ask your fear:

  • What are you trying to protect me from?

Once you answer that, ask:

  • What are you preventing me from having if I listen to you?

If the thing you really want is on the other side of your fear, then you know what you have to do next (luckily journals are a great place to make to-do lists as well)!

My last and favorite questions to ask fear is:

  • What’s the absolute worst-case scenario?

For example, let’s say you’re terrified of breaking ties with a client who is making your professional life miserable. You may answer this question with something like “My client blacklists me and smears ugly rumors about me all around town and not only do I lose one client but my entire business goes down.”

Eeesh. That does sound scary. Now ask yourself:

  • What are some steps I can take to ensure the worst case scenario doesn’t happen?

And then:

  • How likely is it that the worst-case scenario will actually happen (especially if I use the plan above)?

Maybe, when you think about it, the client is actually preventing you from bringing in new business because they’re taking up so much of your time.

And maybe that client doesn’t even have the best reputation so the chances of them being able to bring you down are pretty small.

What if you spent one hour a week for the next 3 weeks working on bringing in new business to replace the the income you make from that client, and figure out a way to end the contract in a very respectful, classy way to hopefully make the odds of them making a stink minimal?

Now you have a plan! But there’s one more question to ask yourself:

  • If the worst case scenario happened, what would you do?

Maybe you realize that if you really needed to, you could always go back to your previous job; they loved you and beg you to all the time. Or you could get by for a couple of months until you were able to bring in some more clients, especially if you cut back on expenses.

Once you stare your fear in the face, it magically loses its power. Left inside of your head, it can destroy you; but taking a few minutes to look at it and use it as a friend who’s showing you where you may need to implement a plan in order to protect yourself, you can take back the reins of your happiness and realize that fear really isn’t all that scary at all.

At this point, it needs to be said that journaling isn’t only good for getting out the nasty feelings, it’s also super useful for recording the good stuff of life which leads me to the fourth writing prompt.

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4. When you’re in a funk, focus on gratitude.

Just about any happiness book or article you read will tell you that being in a state of gratitude dramatically increases your happiness. For me, having a place to get down to the truth of my life and what’s actually going really well and what I’m grateful for helps put everything into perspective, especially when I’ve got a case of the blues.

Here are some of my favorite gratitude prompts to help get me out of a funk and focusing on the sunnier side of life.

Write down these questions in your journal one at a time and answer each one:

  • What is something good that happened today?
  • What made me laugh or smile today?
  • Who am I grateful for today?
  • What am I grateful for today?
  • With my “gratitude glasses” on, how do my problems or the funk I’m in look in relation to all of the good things I have in my life?

Take a look at this article too to learn more about keeping a gratitude journal: How a Gratitude Journal and Positive Affirmations Can Change Your Life

Shifting out of a funk and into gratitude shifts your energy out of “woe is me” and into “yay for me” which means, based on the Law of Attraction, you’ll begin to attract more of the things you want and less of what you don’t. Seriously, yay for you!

5. When you’re uninspired or bored with the status quo, let it flow.

One of the best and easiest ways to tap into your inspiration and feel a little bit of creative magic in your life is through stream of consciousness writing.

I dare you to put your pen on a blank page for 5 minutes and do nothing but make sure the pen doesn’t stop moving.

No thinking. No judgements. The only thing you’re not allowed to do is overthink or judge your writing. It’s all good. Everything that comes out is good (even if it’s total crap).

When I was in grad school, I took this awesome class on creativity and in it read a book called From Where you Dream by Robert Olen Butler. The book is mostly about fiction writing but essentially, he says that the best time to tap into your subconscious (where your “flow” lives) is when you first wake up in the morning. Since you’re fresh from dreaming, your brain is still tuned to that frequency, so to speak, and not clouded by “reality” from your day-to-day life.

So my last and final 5-minute journal prompt for you, uninspired one, is to wake up and let yourself keep dreaming on paper.

Here are your instructions:

  1. Set the timer for 5 minutes.
  2. Open your journal.
  3. Pick up your pen.
  4. Keep your pen moving until your timer stops.

What I love about this is it requires releasing all expectations and giving yourself creative freedom to let whatever needs to come out come out.

Become Happier in 5 Minutes (or Even Less)

Giving yourself a safe space to not expect anything other than to just show up and be honest is incredibly liberating.

In a world where there are endless things we are supposed to be doing, and ways in which we’re supposed to be doing them, I love showing up to a blank page with no requirements other than to just let my hand move.

It’s free and requires nothing from me other than just showing up wherever I am–talk about an endless source of grace!

Plus it gets my myriad thoughts out of my head and allows me to release them from my body, which research at top universities has shown can dramatically reduce stress.[1]

You don’t need to change EVERYTHING in your life all at once (it doesn’t work anyway, trust me, I’ve tried).

Start with giving yourself the gift of reflection in your journal every day and see how your life starts to change. I guarantee you’ll feel more connected with yourself in the process and over time everything in your life will start to be a better reflection of you and what you value.

And that, my friends, is the key to lasting happiness.

More Journaling Ideas

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Health Publishing: Writing about emotions may ease stress and trauma

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