I Have a Dream: The Speeches That Changed History
By: Ferdie Addis
Publisher: Michael O’Mara
Spoken words since time immemorial have moved people often mesmerising them and holding them spellbound, propelling them into mass movements. There have been speeches that have stirred human being into action, creating history. And then there were others that have caused doom and brought death and misery upon people but they undeniably impact the course of human history.
A collection of speeches, titled I Have a Dream, therefore is a welcome initiative by Ferdie Addis that gives access to readers to the spoken words of different world leaders at one place. He has presented a wide range of famous speeches. From classical orators of the 8th century BC to modern-day speakers, the 190-page book has over three dozen speeches of heroes and villains.
There are philosophers, priests, popes, peasants, slaves, soldiers, dictators, prime ministers, presidents and terrorists.
“A truly brilliant speech is an extraordinary thing,” says Addis in his introduction and goes on to add that “although words can’t fight battles, or power factories, they certainly can drive people”.
It was in Ancient Greece that the art of rhetoric first began to flourish and it continues to play a significant role in public life. If properly delivered, words acquire altogether a different meaning to listeners transforming into an art of speaking.
Whether in democracy or dictatorship, speeches continue to captivate masses and that is why speech writing or public speaking has now become a business as many aspiring political leaders take up classes to turn themselves into good speakers.
Good articulation, forceful arguments, coherent presentation and pleasant demeanour are some of the essential attributes of a good speech.
While Addis’s selection of speeches, which includes Mahatma Gandhi and the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, deserves appreciation, yet there seem to be some disturbing omissions.
Though ‘Declaration of War on the United States’ by Osama bin Laden finds a place in the book, absence or non-selection of leaders such as Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, Fiedel Castro or Che Guevara in his collection does raise serious doubts over his deciding criterion.
There may be conflicting opinions about their contributions, yet there cannot be two views that these leaders played a decisive role in the 20th century. Is it the lack of knowledge or simply a bias towards the Communist leaders? This question cannot be answered here.
Inclusion of these and other leaders would have enriched the collection further, turning it into almost a textbook for young and aspiring public speakers in the field of politics, judiciary and other similar professions where spoken word is not only significant but a necessity. The book, ending with the victory speech of US President Barack Obama, was published in 2011, and therefore needs its next edition.