What makes great speeches great? Why are some more memorable than others? From Plato to Obama, Julius Caesar to Nelson Mandela, public speeches have always been an important tool in politics and culture. Whether they passionately rouse a country to war or quietly denounce social and racial injustice, a well-crafted speech can evoke a wide range of feelings and emotions among an audience. Men and women throughout history have perfected the art of oration and delivered speeches that have altered the course of history. We only need to think of the following examples in English to realize how even a single sentence can often long outlive the person who uttered it:
‘I have a dream’, Martin Luther King (1963)
‘We shall fight on the beaches’, Winston Churchill (1940)
‘Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country’, John F. Kennedy (1961)
The political and cultural realms of Latin America are no different, and have produced some of the most emotive and bold speeches in history. This module will introduce you to two of the most well known discursos from the 20th century. First, we will look at the Colombian author, Gabriel García Márquez, and his acceptance speech after winning the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature. Secondly, we will examine President Salvador Allende’s farewell speech to the Chilean people, transmitted live over radio just moments before his death in the 1973 coup d’état. These speeches are excellent examples of how the spoken word can stir up intense emotions among audiences, and will help us understand the fundamental social and political issues that are at stake in carefully mastering the art of oration.