Charismatic speaker arouses a crowd

15 Great Speeches By Leaders

In the age of social media, great oratory still resonates with the masses. It’s still true, and was always true — that great, truly great leaders are charismatic speakers. Below are some of the best examples of great speeches that will stand the test of time.

Written by Murray Johannsen. I welcome connections via LinkedIn or directly from this website.

Learn How To Make a Great Speech

Great speeches go hand in hand with great leadership. There’s power in the words if you know how to make the perfect pitch — how to deliver a speech — that holds their attention.

There is a structure to a great pitch—whether you are doing it live or on vide.

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A Great Speech That Changed History

Great presentations, great persuasive presentations have a strong motivational impact. They can be so powerful as to change history. 

Pope Urban II: Speech at the Council of Clermont

There is no exact version of what was said, but we know the results — the Crusades. Actually, there were several crusades, some total disasters such as the Children’s crusade. Still, it must have been an incredible speech, one designed to persuade and motivate the nobility of Europe.

This link accesses six versions of what was said.


In November 1095, Pope Urban the second called the European nobility to the Council of Claremont. There gathered the power elite of the day (kind of reminds you of Davos, doesn’t it). While you might call them members of the nobility, they were anything but noble. There were cynical, real political types. We have no exact record of what he said, there were not transcripts, the exact words forever lost.

However, we know the results—the crusades. Nine of them, ten counting the Children’s Crusade, spread over 300 years of time.

Whether or not you believe this was a good thing, one cannot deny that this speech was the catalyst of a social movement that changed history.

By Jean Colombe (about 1492)
By Jean Colombe. Painting of the nobility assembled at the Council of Claremont


Zelensi’s Presentation to The Heads of States of the European Union

One recent example was the 10 minute presentation to the leaders of the European Union by the president of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Article was titled, “Historic sanctions on Russia had roots in Zelensky’s emotional appeal.” Source: Washington Post and Yahoo.

Gavin Newsom: Governor of the State of California

Michele Obama — Summer and Fall of 2016

Normally, a first lady is not known for her ability to inspire and motivate. However, Ms. Obama is clearly the exception. The first speech is one made that had an impact on the 2016 presidential election. It’s included in an article from the Washington Post titled, “Michelle Obama’s Speech on Donald Trump was Remarkable.”

Pope Francis: Speech to the US Congress, September 24, 2015.

The content is extremely well written and delivered. It plays well to a set of aspirational cultural values, in this case, values strongly held in the American culture. That said, he also reminded these political leaders of the moral and ethical basis for exercising power.

Access: Full Transcript

Bill Clinton — 2008 Speech at the Democratic National Convention

American president’s while in the office tends to be rather boring (meaning statesman-like). However, they do liven up the rhetoric on the campaign trail. Although it is fairly ethnocentric, focused as it is on American politics, you get a feel for how to good delivery interacts with good content to generate audience enthusiasm.

Elizabeth Warren — December 12, 2013

It is not that often that a single speech can capture the imagination of many, but that is what happened with this 2013 speech by Senator Warren. Essentially, this short ten-minute speech was a populist one that catapulted the Senator into the position of a national spokesperson for the Democratic Party in America.


Steve Jobs — I-phone Introduction

Most business presentations are pretty boring but Jobs has mastered the art of the presentation. You don’t have to watch the entire presentation, but one can see why the iPhone generated so much publicity.


Martin Luther King: I Have a Dream

This seventeen-minute video captured the powerful words of a truly great speaker—one who polished his craft with hundreds of hours of practice. While it is hard to tell from the video, it appears Dr. King started his presentation by reading from a script, then stopped reading from his prepared notes and started speaking extemporaneously. You might say, that’s when the magic began.

Admiral William H. McRaven

Commencement speeches are always a special event. For the speaker makes a special event to share the lessons of a life time with those who are about to start their work life.

A great speech by a Navy Admiral and Naval Seal on how to change the world for the better.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Schwarzenegger is truly a special person who succeeded in multiple roles. A famous body builder, a movie star and a governor of California. Not bad for an immigrant from Austria.

Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action

This was the video that founded an extremely successful career as a speaker and author. Not only is it a great speech about leadership, but it contains some timeless wisdom on marketing as well.

Steve Jobs — 2005 Graduation Speech as Stanford—Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

Randy Pausch — The Last Lecture

University professors are generally not known for memorable lectures. However, this is the exception to the rule. In the video, we hear words of wisdom from a professor who knew he was dying of cancer. This has been a viral classic for a while and it really has a timeless quality about it.

A great speech does not have to belong, this one is only 12 minutes. But it captured the many elements that make for a great presentation — there was emotion, there was fluency, and there was humor. You’ll also hear several great teaching stories, especially one which I call, “The Hill.”

Teddy Kennedy, Jr.: A Eulogy for My Father

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