As part of the Millennium Lecture series at the White House, Elie Wiesel defined indifference (etext found here) to an audience he knew had the power to recognize and prevent its dangers. Here are links to our lists for other texts by the Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate: Hope, Despair and Memory, Night
On March 7th, 2015, President Obama spoke at a ceremony for the 50th anniversary of the events of “Bloody Sunday,” when over 600 non-violent protesters were attacked by Alabama state troopers as they attempted to march from Selma to Montgomery for voting rights.
Abraham Lincoln took the oath of office as the 16th President of the United States on March 4, 1861. Since his election the previous November Southern states had met and declared their intent to secede. In his inaugural address Lincoln made it clear that he did not consider the Southern states to be enemies but that it was his duty to protect the Union, by force if necessary.
The State of The Union address was delivered on January 20, 2015. President Obama's speech highlighted the middle class and the economy, while also dealing with America's concerns on the global stage. As President Obama enters the final two years of his presidency, the speech also took time to express the President's hopes for the future, especially in regards to changing the culture in Washington, D.C. and examining how America handles the issue of race in light of recent events. Full transcript of the speech available here.
Spring is in the air. So are graduation caps and words of wisdom. See how notable speakers from various fields (including a cartoonist, scientist, and president) have inspired the rising of new generations. For more motivation, click here.
Elie Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his lifetime struggle against indifference, which he sees as synonymous to the struggle for peace. As an author, philosopher, and humanist, Wiesel focuses on drawing attention to the crimes committed by the Nazis during World War II, in order to prevent such a holocaust from happening again. In accepting the prize on December 11, 1986, Wiesel gave a lecture titled "Hope, Despair and Memory" in which he shows, through a combination of biblical stories, history, and his own story, how those three perspectives must be balanced to remind each person that we have the power and duty to save ourselves, our neighbors, and humanity. E-text available here.
I Am An American Day was first designated by Congress in 1940 to be celebrated on the third Sunday of May, but was later moved in 1952 to September 17 and renamed Constitution Day and Citizenship Day. Learned Hand's "Spirit of Liberty" speech was delivered on May 21, 1944 at an event in New York City's Central Park. With the world still in the middle of a war, the speech reaffirmed the country's faith that freedom is worth fighting for. The overall tone is uplifting. It starts by recognizing the physical gathering of the audience, and ends by uniting everyone in a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. E-text available here.
Chief Joseph, also known as In-mut-too-yah-lat-lat (which means "Thunder-Traveling-to-Loftier-Mountain-Heights"), surrendered on October 5, 1877 in Idaho. Realizing his Nez Perce tribe could not keep their lands against the US army, he said, "Hear me, my chiefs; my heart is sick and sad. From where the Sun now stands, I will fight no more forever." These heartbroken words are not in the formal speech he later delivered in Washington D.C. In the published version in the North American Review, Chief Joseph accuses the Government of cheating and mistreating the tribe, but he ends with a hope for peace, freedom, and equality. E-text available here.
The issues surrounding the Russian state and the area of Ukraine known as Crimea involve centuries of history and complex issues of sovereignty and self-determination. In an effort to untangle at least some of these issues, below are 60 vocabulary words drawn from Putin's speech of March 18, 2014. Whatever one thinks of Putin and his methods, and whether the situation in Ukraine is the beginning of something or the end, it is this speech that history will likely turn to to examine Putin's public persona at this time. The entire text of the speech can be found here The Prague Post, March 19, 2014.
Margaret Chase Smith's address to the US Senate on June 1, 1950 was a "Declaration of Conscience" in response to Joseph R. McCarthy's accusations about Communist subversives in the government. The overall tone shames the other senators into soul searching. It expresses the hope that the government will find its way back to upholding the individual freedoms that unite and strengthen America. E-text available here.
Ronald Reagan's visit to Moscow State University on May 31, 1988 included remarks and a brief question and answer session with students and faculty. The question and answer session covered topics from Soviet dissidents to the president's retirement plans. The overall tone of the remarks praises America's commitment to freedom and democracy, while reassuring the young Russians that these ideals were within their grasp. In addition to outlining the possibilities with the technological revolution, Reagan proposed an increased student exchange program as steps towards tearing down the walls that keep people apart. E-text available here.
Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address was delivered on March 4th, 1865 during the fourth year of the Civil War. The overall tone shows weariness with the ongoing conflict, while also reaffirming a faith in God's will. It starts with a comparison to the first inaugural address (in which more words were needed to describe the plans of a new administration), and ends with the hope that reconciliation and reconstruction can soon heal the nation's wounds. E-text available here.
Steve Jobs's Commencement Address at Stanford University on June 12, 2005 focuses on three personal stories from the entrepreneur's life that touch upon larger themes. The overall tone is both humorously self-deprecating and seriously uplifting. Jobs admitted that he had never graduated from college, but through a series of setbacks that turned out to be the best things to happen to him at those moments, he stayed hungry and foolish enough to make each day worth living. E-text available here.
Hillary Clinton's remarks at the close of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Women and the Economy Summit on September 16, 2011 focus on affirming the organization's commitment to developing the skills of women, improving their access to economic opportunities, and supporting their rise to leadership roles. The overall tone encourages transformation, while acknowledging that the journey ahead will be long and difficult. It outlines past gains and present obstacles for women, but Clinton's vision extends beyond one gender to the goal of shared prosperity for all humankind. E-text available here.
Cesar Chavez's address to The Commonwealth Club of San Francisco on November 9, 1984 seeks support for the United Farm Workers. This speech starts with a description of a tragedy that highlights the mistreatment of migrants and ends with the belief that the descendants of Hispanic farm workers are the future of California and their accomplishments will enrich the entire nation. E-text available here.
Sojourner Truth's speech at the 1851 Women's Rights Convention in Ohio asked a question that could not be denied in order to draw attention to the humanity, abilities, thus rights, of both women and slaves. The overall tone was passionate and provocative. In a version published in an 1863 issue of the Anti-Slavery Standard, the presiding officer of the convention Frances Dana Gage quoted the speech within her descriptions of the setting, audience, and speaker. E-text available here.
Ronald Reagan's First Inaugural Address on January 20, 1981 outlines the objectives of the newly elected 40th President of the United States. The overall tone inspires heroic renewal. It starts by acknowledging the troubles of the domestic economy but ends with the belief that, with the help of the people and the support of a more efficient government, America can once again be a beacon of hope, freedom, and strength for the rest of the world. E-text available here.
President Obama delivered the annual State of the Union Address on Tuesday evening. Always a wide ranging speech, this year the President touched on everything from the minimum wage to the war in Afghanistan. Here are some vocabulary words from the speech and a link to the transcript. The advantage to reading the speech as opposed to watching it is that on paper there are no interruptions for applause/booing!
On Friday, President Obama spoke about the spying and surveillance scandal involving the National Security Agency, which has been a hot topic of debate for several months. Mr. Obama addressed criticism of the program and announced changes to it while tracing the changes in his own personal stance on the issue. A controversial and complicated topic, here are 50 words to help you understand the President's address. Transcript available here
Woodrow Wilson's "Fourteen Points" was an international relations plan, both in specific terms and general philosophical ones. The specific terms involved settling old grudges in Europe, but the general tone is one that demanded absolute transparency in dealings between nations. Wilson's vision is one of freedom with limits and equality among nations, and he refrains from advocating severe punishment for even World War I foe Germany. E-text available here
In 1990, shortly after his release from prison, the United Nations hosted Nelson Mandela at a Special Meeting of its Committee Against Apartheid. Here are 25 words from Mandela's statement on that occasion. Transcript of speech available here
In this speech, delivered on the 45th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, John Quincy Adams outlines not only the history leading up to the Revolutionary War and the establishment of America, he also traces the history of the very idea at the heart of America- that the right to govern issues from the people themselves. Less than 50 years into the life of the nation, Adams sees the embodiment of this principle as America's greatest contribution to the world. His point resonates even today, more than a century and a half after the speech was given. E-text available here