Saturday, July 4, 2015

The American Speeches


Today our nation turns 239 years old. We've had a wild ride to get here. World Wars and Civil War, terrorist attacks and massive economic upheaval. And through it all we remain committed to the ideals of our founders, that we "are, and of a right ought to be free" and that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

We have our differences. Some still fly the Confederate Flag, maintaining that it is a symbol of honor, while other deride it. And some fly the Rainbow flag. And yet through it all we remain, all of us, Americans.

Throughout our history, from the time when Patrick Henry stood and shouted "give me liberty or give me death" we have been a nation roused by great speeches. In the darkest days of the Civil War, the only time, somewhat surprisingly, when we stopped arguing with each other and started killing one another, Abraham Lincoln gave the nation hope with his speech at Gettysburg. George Washington gave his speech convincing his generals not to overthrow congress and make him king, and Martin Luther King Jr. stood and shouted "I have a dream." We don't all agree with the content of all the speeches, or even with what those who gave them stood for. But below are some of America's greatest speeches, sometimes given by actors, because they couldn't television cameras in to film John Adams.

John Adams, from the film John Adams, "While I live, let me have a country-a free country!"

Jumping a long way forward, we come to John F. Kennedy, one of the great beloved presidents of all time. In this speech he let it be known to the world that America had chosen to keep the 1900s as the American Century.

While the constitution gave liberty to all those enfranchised, not everyone was included, and even after the Civil War the great divide remained. In the 1960s, a new generation of great Americans carried the banner a few more steps up the mountain. Martin Luther King Jr., "I have a Dream!"

Ronald Reagan: "We must fight!" One of the speeches that continued to inspire Americans not to stop pressing in the face of the Cold War.

And, almost finally, Barak Obama. He's not my all time favorite president, but the power of his speech at the DNC in 2004, creating the beginnings of the wave he would ride into the White House in a historic presidency must not be underestimated. Whether or not you believe the president has fulfilled the words he spoke here, it is difficult to disagree that we ought, indeed to be the United States of America. Obama, "We are the United States."

Finally, movies, fiction, our fantasies, dream, and fears, cannot be ignored in their power to move us, and to create a future, wether good or bad. Many American films have had speeches, often as good or even better than ones given in real life. Below is one of the greatest. A look into the future. And, after all, its a speech such as a president should give, isn't it? Armageddon, "The Dreams of the Planet."

Happy fourth of July everyone. God Bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

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