Speeches You’ve Never Heard – For Various Reasons

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Important Speeches

Never Heard

by the Public

It’s good to be prepared. You never know for sure how a big decision will turn out, so you need to be ready for anything. This is especially true if you have to announce a victory or a tragedy to the world; you want to have a speech ready so you don’t resort to freestyle rapping your way through a declaration of war. Fate dictated that these speeches not be given, but they would have been well-remembered if they had.

10. Wamsutta James Ruins Plymouth’s Anniversary Party

Native American activist Wamsutta James was a descendant of the Wampanoags, a tribe that was living in New England when European maps were still labeling America with “Here be Dragons.” When he was asked to give a speech at a 1970 event commemorating the anniversary of the arrival of settlers at Plymouth, he saw a chance to rip apart historical myths that glossed over how natives were treated by settlers. Instead of telling the school kids and Pilgrim descendants present what they were expecting to hear — cute fictions about how buddy-buddy the Pilgrims and Natives were — he would have spent his entire speech destroying those myths, taking his audience to task for their ignorance and highlighting the many atrocities his people suffered, after which he presumably would have dropped the mic and strutted offstage.

Event organizers didn’t like his proposed text and he didn’t like their requests for a rewrite, so James never spoke. While not as historically significant as the speeches coming up on this list, James’ speech is worth mentioning because it highlights an area of American history that is woefully overlooked. It’s fittingly ironic that a speech meant to discuss an oft-suppressed historical truth was prevented from being given. Also, we have to admire the giant balls it takes to accept an invitation to speak at an event, and then spend your whole time trashing it.

Excerpt

“We forfeited our country. Our lands have fallen into the hands of the aggressor. We have allowed the white man to keep us on our knees. What has happened cannot be changed, but today we must work towards a more humane America, a more Indian America, where men and nature once again are important; where the Indian values of honor, truth, and brotherhood prevail.”

9. Sarah Palin Wins

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Near the end of the 2008 Presidential election, tensions between the McCain and Palin camps were so high that McCain’s people insisted that, win or lose, Sarah Palin would not give a speech on Election Night. Given that Palin had turned into the laughingstock of the campaign, that was probably a wise decision.

Palin was a divisive figure both during and after the election, with some voters loving her and others cringing at the thought of her being a heartbeat away from the Presidency. When the text of Palin’s proposed victory speech was revealed, it was a look into what could have been (but thankfully wasn’t). As a speech it’s decent enough, your typical gracious victory celebration. But it’s the idea behind it that’s really interesting — the 2008 election was one of the closest and most contentious in recent history, and the years that followed it would have looked awfully different had the result swung the other way. Regardless of your political beliefs, it’s a hell of a thought experiment to take a minute and wonder what America would have looked like with Sarah Palin in the White House, and her speech lets you know how that news would have been broken to you.

Excerpt

“It’s been just 68 days since that afternoon in Dayton, Ohio, when Senator McCain introduced me as his running mate. He is truly the maverick. He took a chance on me. I will always be grateful for that. It will be the honor of a lifetime to work him as vice president of the United States. And I pledge to govern with integrity, and goodwill, and clear conviction, and a servant’s heart.

My fellow Americans, tens of millions of you shared our convictions and gave us your votes. And I thank you for your confidence. We were facing tough odds and formidable opponents.”

8. Albert Lutuli Lectures South Africa

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Albert Lutuli was a key member of the African National Congress and their struggle against South Africa’s apartheid government. He was arrested in 1960 for burning his pass (an internal passport that all black South Africans were required to carry and produce on demand), shortly after 69 people were killed in a protest against the pass system.

Lutuli was found guilty, fined and given a suspended jail sentence. He had planned on giving a speech before the sentence was decided, but ultimately refrained for health reasons. While today the trial is little more than a footnote in the long story of the anti-apartheid movement, his proposed speech is an excellent piece of rhetoric that aptly highlights the many grievances blacks had with the system. If Lutuli had been able to give it, it may have well been remembered alongside other famous protest speeches of the era.

Excerpt

“There comes a time, sir, when a leader must give as practical a demonstration of his convictions and willingness to live up to the demands of the cause, as he expects of his people. I felt that was the hour in our history, and in my life, for this demonstration. I am not sorry nor ashamed of what I did. I could not have done less than I did and still live with my conscience. I would rightly lose the confidence of my people, and earn the disrespect of right-thinking people in my country and in the world, and the disdain of posterity.

In all humility, I say that I acted as was my duty in response to the highest moral law in the best interest of the people of South Africa, because I am convinced that the urgent need of our country, for the maintenance of peace and harmony amongst the various races, black and white, is the immediate and wholesale abolition of the pass. It is my firm belief that it is the duty of all right-thinking people, black and white, who have the true interest of our country at heart, to strive for this without flinching.”

7. JFK’s Dallas Speech

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As you are hopefully aware, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in 1963. If you weren’t aware, you’re probably wondering what the magic box you’re reading this list on is. What you may not know was that Kennedy was on his way to the Dallas Trade Mart, where he was scheduled to give a speech.

His speech touches on the Cold War, America’s role in the world, and the general uneasiness of the times. Ironically, parts of the speech attack speaking itself — Kennedy argues that America needs to act against Communism instead of merely criticizing it. Some of his words are ominous — promoting financial support for the Vietnam War and the oppressive Iranian Shah does not look wise in retrospect, and bragging about how the US has been able to vastly expand its nuclear arsenal is flat-out scary.

Nevertheless, it’s a stirring piece of rhetoric that would have done well in the hands of a skilled orator like Kennedy, and certainly would have been remembered as a snapshot of the times in which he governed had he lived to deliver it.

Excerpt

“We in this country, in this generation, are — by destiny rather than choice — the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of “peace on earth, good will toward men.” That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago, “except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.””

6. A Regular FDR Speech Would Have Been An Unofficial Goodbye

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Speaking of Presidents and dying, FDR had a speech ready to go for Jefferson Day 1945, before a massive cerebral hemorrhage changed his plans. Had he lived to give it, it would probably be remembered as a decent but generic speech, the sort of remarks the President needs to make when there’s a war going on.

But with FDR kicking the bucket and World War II ending not long after his death, his unspoken words serve as an unintentional goodbye to the American people and the world. They have a poignancy that would be lacking had he lived to speak them, and they make a fitting eulogy for the end of both the longest Presidency in American history and a historical era of depression and war. There’s an optimism to the speech, as it looks forward to the time of peace everyone knows is slowly but surely coming, that is somehow stronger for being given from beyond the grave (not literally; a zombie FDR giving a speech would be terrifying).

Excerpt

“Today, as we move against the terrible scourge of war—as we go forward toward the greatest contribution that any generation of human beings can make in this world- the contribution of lasting peace, I ask you to keep up your faith. I measure the sound, solid achievement that can be made at this time by the straight edge of your own confidence and your resolve. And to you, and to all Americans who dedicate themselves with us to the making of an abiding peace, I say: The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith.”

5. The Cold War Goes Hot

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The Cuban Missile Crisis ended about as well as anything called a “missile crisis” could be expected to — the US publicly won a game of nuclear chicken, the Soviet Union privately achieved a strategic goal by having US missiles removed from Turkey, and nobody got blown up. It’s the sort of feel good ending that was tailor-made for Hollywood.

Most alternative “solutions” to the Crisis would have ended with shots being fired, and JFK had a speech ready to go in case he felt it necessary for American boots to hit the ground in Cuba. We can’t even begin to speculate what the fallout of a military invasion of Cuba would have been. At best, American-Soviet relations would have hit an all-time low, and at worst we’d all be living in Fallout instead of dicking around on the Internet. On the plus side, it would be a lot cheaper to take vacations to Cuba.

Anytime you can make a decision where one possible result is “nuclear holocaust,” you better have a darn good speech up your sleeve, and JFK’s remarks are appropriately somber. Considering the next words out of his mouth could have been “better duck and cover, kids!” they damn well should have been.

Excerpt

“My fellow Americans, with a heavy heart, and in necessary fulfillment of my oath of office, I have ordered – and the United States Air Force has now carried out – military operations with conventional weapons only, to remove a major nuclear weapons build-up from the soil of Cuba.”

4. Nixon Doesn’t Resign

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Political super-villain Richard Nixon is famous for being the only President in American history to resign, but that was actually “Option B.” Had things gone according to plan he would have clung to power, and his Presidency would have begun to resemble the Nixon Administration from Watchmen.

Nixon’s “I’m Sticking Around, Suckers” speech is defiant, although in retrospect it’s also ignorant of the state of affairs, and a little megalomaniacal to boot. Nixon resigned after realizing the political winds were against him, so it’s hard not to imagine this speech being given from a throne of skulls with lighting and thunder crackling in the background. Had Nixon decided to fight public opinion and cling to power, the politics of the day would have become even uglier in a hurry.

Excerpt

“I firmly believe that I have not committed any act of commission or omission that justifies removing a duly elected President from office. If I did believe that I had committed such an act, I would have resigned long ago.”

3. D-Day Fails

As any video gamer can tell you, D-Day was a tough battle. History classes tend to gloss over the many ways Operation Overlord could have gone wrong — anything from a smarter German reaction to lousy weather would have made Saving Private Ryan a lot more depressing. General Eisenhower, well aware of the risk he was taking, took a moment on the evening before the battle to jot down a speech to be read in case of failure. The speech — actually little more than a brief statement — is chilling in how it describes what would have been a catastrophic loss of life with clinical detachment.

How would World War II have turned out if D-Day failed? Well, by 1944, it was just a matter of time until the Nazis were defeated, but with the American and British advance in tatters, the Red Army would have had to pick up the slack, pushing further into Europe than they did in reality. The end result would have been a much larger Soviet Union and a very different Cold War, changes that would have reverberated through history up until today. So jeez, Eisenhower, maybe you should have offered more than 10 seconds of commentary on the matter.

Excerpt

“Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air, and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”

2. Apollo 11 Doesn’t Come Home

Getting men to the Moon was such a complicated endeavor that it’s easy to forget that we had to get them home, too. If something broke they couldn’t exactly call AAA for help, and considering we’re talking about travelling 384,400 km through the vacuum of space in a little ball of metal powered by rocket fuel and slide ruler calculations, it’s actually remarkable that something didn’t break. The joy and wonder felt around the world at the sight of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the Moon would have been a bit dampened had it then been announced that their adventure had unexpectedly become a one-way trip.

Presidential speechwriter William Safire knew the White House had to be ready for anything, so he prepared a short speech entitled “In the Event of Moon Disaster.” Thankfully it never had to be given, but it’s a beautiful piece of prose that would have served as a fitting tribute to the men lying their lives down for the cause of exploration, dampened only slightly by the fact that it would have been read by Richard Nixon.

Excerpt

“For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.”

1. Hitler Gets Blown Up

Carl Friedrich Goerdeler as Price Commissioner

As that Tom Cruise movie (and maybe history class) taught you, in 1944 there was a failed attempt by members of the German Resistance to assassinate Hitler. Had the attempt succeeded, Carl Friedrich Goerdeler, one of the conspirators and the proposed Chancellor of post-Hitler Germany, would have given a fiery radio address denouncing Hitler and his policies. Unfortunately, Hitler survived the assassination attempt with everything but his trousers intact, and Goerdeler and his fellow conspirators were quickly rounded up. Nearly 5000 people were executed in the aftermath, essentially putting an end to all organised anti-Nazi resistance within Germany.

It’s hard to say what would have happened had the plan succeeded — internal German politics were complicated, and many of the conspirators still held anti-Semitic views. But regardless of the details, it’s likely that signing a peace treaty would have been a priority, World War II would have come to an early end in Europe, and there would have been no Berlin Wall. But then David Hasselhoff wouldn’t have been able to play a concert there, so maybe it was for the best.

Excerpt

“We would not be worthy of our fathers, we would earn the contempt of our children, if we lacked the courage to do everything, everything conceivable, to avert the terrible peril and to achieve self-respect once more. Over and over, Hitler has violated the oath given to the people ten years ago. He has done so by violating the law, human and divine. Therefore no soldier, no official, not a single citizen is bound to him by oath any longer.”


Speeches You’ve Never Heard –

For Various Reasons

Crooks, Cronies, Corruption & Cookie Jars

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9 Sensational, Sorry, Stupid and Sordid Political Scandals

 History is there to remind us…

On October 10, 1973, Spiro Agnew, former Governor of Maryland and current Vice President of the United States, resigned his office following criminal charges.  Agnew’s crimes and subsequent resignation constituted one of the worst political scandals in U.S. history, as he was only the second U.S. vice president to resign and the only one to resign because of crimes.  Just like other people, politicians sometimes do the wrong thing, however when they do, and it becomes public knowledge, a scandal often ensues.  Here 9 such scandals are listed.  For similar stories, please also read the Cracked History articles: 10 US Politicians Who Have Done or Said Racist Things; and10 Famous Politicians and Their Salacious Sex Scandals.  Special thanks to Joe McCarthy, the one-man political scandal, for providing so much material.

Sorting thru the trash…

9. Judge Samuel B. Kent, Sexual Harassment, 2009.

As a federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Samuel B. Kent should have known better than to sexually harass someone and then to lie about it.  He was sentenced to 33 months in a federal prison as a result.  Before entering prison, he attempted to retire due to disability but was forced by irate members of the House Judiciary Committee to resign instead so that he would not collect a lifetime pension of 100% of his salary.  In another scam effort to retain his lucrative pension, he then tendered a resignation that would not be effective for another year.  This, however, was rebuffed by the House of Representatives that then voted to impeach him, at which time he finally resigned for good.  He pled guilty to 1 count of obstruction of justice.

8. ABSCAM, Government Bribery Sting, 1978-1980.

ABSCAM was the name of an investigation in the late 70s and early 80s when the FBI ran a sting on politicians by setting up fake Arab oil executives to bribe susceptible government employees and office holders.  Dozens were investigated, and convictions came for 1 US Senator, 6 US Congressmen, the Mayor of Camden, New Jersey, a New Jersey State Senator, a Philadelphia councilman and several other civil servants.  Numerous other representatives and senators were also involved, and some of them only narrowly avoided prosecution.

7. The Spiegel Affair (West Germany), 1962.

The Spiegel Affair was a scandal that involved the leading German news and political magazine Der Spiegel and the West German Minister of Defense Franz Strauss.  Spiegel had run stories investigating the possibility of bribery in the Defense Ministry and alluding to West German lack of military preparedness, infuriating Strauss who in turn had the author of an article and the editors arrested.  Police occupied Der Spiegel’soffices, and riots over the arrests which had been conducted without the participation of the Justice Ministry broke out.  This was the first episode of mass public dissent since World War II.  The end result was Der Spiegel-1, Strauss-0, and although Strauss’ political career was damaged, he was neither fired nor prosecuted, as he claimed he thought he was acting legally.

6. Jesse Louis Jackson, Jr., Resignation and Felony Conviction, 2012-2013.

The son of prominent civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, Junior was a congressman who represented Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives when he was accused of fiscal irregularities and the misuse of campaign funds.  He resigned his seat and pled guilty to 1 count of mail and wire fraud and received a 30-month sentence.  He had been a member of Congress since 1995 and even served as the co-chairman of Barack Obama’s 2008 election campaign.  When he resigned, he revealed that he had been suffering from clinical depression, bi-polar disorder and abdominal problems (probably a result of being investigated).

5-3. “Tail gunner Joe” McCarthy, Numerous Items, 1947-1957.

Before entering politics, McCarthy had been a tail gunner on an American bomber during World War II and earned a Distinguished Flying Cross.  It was afterwards that he became one of the biggest jerks in U.S. political history.  His time as a US senator from Wisconsin was marred by several shameful episodes, largely having to do with laying false accusations on a number of different people and groups.

First, he angered many fellow veterans by lobbying for the commutation of sentences for the German SS murderers who had massacred US POWs at Malmedy, France in 1944; he had accused the U.S. Army of torturing the defendants and otherwise improper handling of the case but never provided a shred of evidence to support this.

His lack of evidence (basically he kept lying) became his hallmark as he accused government employees and private citizens of being communists (or sympathizers) or homosexuals.

Finally, McCarthy was accused by the U.S. Army of trying to force them to give his friend, a soldier named G. David Shine, special treatment.  Meanwhile, McCarthy was making false accusations about Army personnel being communists or spies.  The back and forth with the Army in Congress was televised, and the desperate McCarthy came across as a nut to Congress and the American public.  In the words of Joseph N. Welch, counsel to the Army, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last…?” He was finally censured by the Senate in 1954 and died (possibly of alcoholism) before he could serve another term.  He continued his anti-communist rants almost to his death.

 Trivia: McCarthy also accused General MacArthur’s enemies of getting President Truman liquored up in order to get MacArthur fired.

2. Vice President Agnew, Various Crimes and Resignation, 1973.

During his second term as vice president, Spiro Agnew was charged with extortion, tax evasion, over $100,000’s worth of bribery and conspiracy for incidents both before and after becoming vice president.  Part of the plea deal was that he resign, which he did.  Members of the press were somewhat smug about Agnew’s downfall as he had been particularly hard and demeaning to them.

1. President Nixon, Watergate and Resignation, 1972-1974.

The grand-prize winner of scandalous politicians, Richard Nixon is the only U.S. president to resign, which he did in 1974 to avoid impeachment and certain conviction.  Nixon’s reelection campaign had burglarized the rooms of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Office Complex in Washington, D.C. prior to the 1972 presidential election, and the burglars were caught.  Investigation eventually led right to President Nixon who had not authorized the burglary but had tried to illegally cover it up.  Members of Nixon’s staff were also implicated and some of them were convicted.

 

 

Crooks, Cronies, Corruption & Cookie Jars

“Who Said that?” – WABAC Phrase Finder

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"Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Let’s go looking for a big stick, Sherman My Boy.”

 

“Who Said that?” –   WABAC Phrase Finder

 

trsbigstick

Bluster back-story…

On September 2, 1901, the then Vice President of the United States, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt first used his famous phrase “Speak softly and carry a big stick” in a speech at the Minnesota State Fair.  Presidents and other famous people have often uttered lines that has become closely associated with that person.  Here 10 of the author’s favorite utterances by famous people are listed.  What other catch phrases or signature lines captivate you?

Let’s listen in…

10. “I am not a crook.” Richard Nixon.

Twice elected vice president twice and twice elected president, and this simple line is how he is remembered.  This was one tortured, weird guy.

9.  “Well, there you go again.”  Ronald Reagan.

“…there you go again” what?!  Telling the truth?!  When confronted in presidential debates with actual facts contrary to the reality that he would have preferred, Reagan used this idiotic line against Jimmy Carter and then against Walter Mondale.  Incredibly, it worked, and the points failed to hurt Reagan.  In fact, many Americans thought it was profound (Too bad he did not also use “It is what it is.”).

8.  “Thank you, thank you very much.”  Elvis Presley.

Such a simple phrase, and yet most people know exactly who you are imitating when you utter it.  Another favorite thing Elvis liked to say was “taking care of business” or TCB.

7.  “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”  Clark Gable.

With this most famous line from the most-watched movie of all time (Gone With The Wind, 1939), Gable as Rhett Butler blew off Scarlett O’Hara, and men have copied the quote ever since, but usually without oozing the manliness of Gable.

6.  “The Buck Stops Here.”  Harry S Truman.

If only all politicians would live by this concept!  As president, Truman had this phrase sitting on his desk as a reminder to anyone who came into his office that he was taking responsibility for whatever went on.  You will notice there is no period after his middle initial.  This is because he did not have a proper middle name, just the letter “S.”  Perhaps that means his middle name was actually “S?”  Go figure.

5.  “I ain’t an athlete, lady. I’m a baseball player.”  John Kruk.

Major league baseball player John Kruk was an All Star 3 times and twice finished in the top 5 in batting.  Apparently not a role model, he uttered his famous quote while he was eating, smoking and drinking beer after a woman had chastised the overweight ballplayer for setting a bad example since he was an athlete.  This man is an inspiration to most American men.

4.  “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”  John F. Kennedy.

This remark is definitely one of the greatest lines ever spoken by an American president, and it is the line most often associated with JFK.  The words had some credibility because Kennedy himself was a war hero who had nearly died in World War II , and he had served in the Senate and White House despite being rich enough to not have to work.  Furthmore, his service to his country eventually cost him his life.

3.  “Veni, vidi, vici.” Julius Caesar.

I came, I saw, I conquered.  A boast to be sure, but a true one.  And what did he get for his troubles?  A bunch of guys in togas stabbing him to death!  Julius Caesar also popularized the phrase “Jacta alea est” (the die is cast), but the first quotation just sounds better.

2.  “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”  Bill Clinton.

In an ill-advised attempt to retain some kind of dignity, Clinton tried to lie his way out of a humiliating revelation about his personal life.  It did not work, and 8 years of an entire presidency is mostly remembered by this single sentence.

1.  “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”  Theodore Roosevelt.

This great line by one of our greatest presidents in regard to his foreign policy is indeed profound (Think of Dirty Harry talking softly while packing his big .44 caliber Magnum.).

 

“Who Said that?” –   WABAC Phrase Finder