Oct 182013

Inspired by the recent anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech, this was intended to be a blog-post featuring world-famous speeches but it soon became clear that archive footage of such speeches is very rare indeed. Fortunately, however, Jisc MediaHub features many world-famous speakers from the 20th and 21st centuries, so I have assembled a selection of some of them, imagining them at a “Fantasy Speakers’ Corner. We start early in the 20th century, when many events were filmed without sound.

Here is Trotsky speaking at the Kremlin, when he was still in favour with the regime.


Large Communist Demonstration in Moscow. Leon Trotsky speaks at Kremlin, 1922 (Gaumont Graphic)

Between the two world wars, there are numerous British clips of Lloyd George in action, this one showing him in rousing form , speaking to 40,000 electors in Rochdale Town Hall Square in 1923.


Rousing Speech in Lancashire (Gaumont Graphic)

And Ramsay MacDonald, the Labour premier, is seen making a speech in Wolverhampton in 1924 from a car, surrounded by crowds.


Prime Minister in the Midlands (Gaumont Graphic)

Jennie Lee, the youngest MP in the House of Commons in 1929, opposed MacDonald, but continued in politics, becoming arts minister in the 1964 Labour government and helping to establish the Open University.


Arts White Paper. Jennie Lee interviewed about plans to develop the Arts in England. (ITV News)

In the Second World War, Frank Capra’s propaganda film, Why We Fight: The Nazis Strike, designed to persuade the US to join the Allies, brilliantly demonstrates Adolf Hitler’s terrifying oratory.


Why We Fight: The Nazis Strike. (Imperial War Museum)

Winston Churchill’s leadership inspired Britain to resist the Nazi menace and some of his most famous speeches are represented in this moving tribute to him.


Tribute to Sir Winston Churchill. (Gaumont British News)

After the war, the first hint of a potential thaw in relations between East and West was the death of Stalin, whose moustachioed figure embodied the Eastern threat in the Cold War but whose Georgian accent denied him universal appeal in the USSR.


Death of Stalin. (Gaumont British News)

The hopes of the West in the 1960s were embodied by two US figures, JF Kennedy and Martin Luther King, seen here promoting racial equality at an event in London in 1964.


Negro Equality. An address from Martin Luther King, on the subject of black and white equality, to an audience of mainly white people. (ITV News)

Some of King’s dreams were realised across the Atlantic in South Africa, where apartheid was abolished and Nelson Mandela became the first black president of the republic.


Nelson Mandela Visits UK. (ITN)

Lenin’s image still loomed large in the USSR, even as Mikhail Gorbachev instituted his perestroika reforms, as can be seen in this photo of Gorbachev addressing the 27th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in Moscow, 1986.


General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev addresses the 27th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. (Getty Images)

20 years after the astonishing election that brought him to power in Poland, Lech Walesa reflected on the optimism and disappointments of the latter years of the 20th century in an interview with AP.

And no-one could deny that one of the defining political figures of that era was Margaret Thatcher, who led reform of the Western economies and staunchly supported leaders such as Gorbachev and Walesa in the East.


USSR: Thatcher/Gorbachev talks. (Channel 4 News)

Britain again played a major political and military role in the world in the early years of the 21st century, led by the charismatic Tony Blair, who often employed an understated, almost conversational rhetorical style, as when he called on the US and Europe to bury their differences over Iraq in 2004.


Blair calls on US and Europe to bury differences on Iraq. (AP Archive)

Who would be in your Fantasy Speakers Corner? Take a browse around Jisc MediaHub and share your favourites here in the Comments.


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