By Tom Bailey @tombaileyblog
The power of a speech is very often overlooked. Indeed, rhetorical skill and oratorical eloquence are often seen as instruments of deception rather than sources of inspiration. And yet, there is surely something in a good speech that can motivate us like nothing else – speeches, just like any art form, can enthuse us with passion and hope and they can help us to channel those emotions towards action.
So that’s why we thought it was important to collect some of the most radical speeches ever made, so that you too can share in the powerful emotions stirred up by a great speech. We’ve put them in Chronological order, and the collection of ten speeches spans from the 14th Century to the late 20th! Of course, these men and women had flaws, but this doesn’t mean that their speeches aren’t inspirational or moving – indeed, in every speech, there is surely something we can learn.
1. All Men By Nature Were Created Alike – John Ball
In May 1381, Wycliffite priest John Ball addressed a group of rebelling labourers who would later take part in the so-called Peasant’s Revolt – a revolt that was partly caused by the introduction of the 1380 poll tax.
In his great speech, Ball argued that “all men by nature were created alike” and that the servitude of agricultural workers constituted what he called an “unjust oppression”. He believed in the equality of all people, and this conviction is clear from his address.
He urged the serfs to “cast off the yoke of bondage, and recover liberty”. They should fight for “equality in liberty” and battle against degrees of nobility and class. It is these words that are often cited as the inspiration for the June 1381 revolt led by Wat Tyler.
Now these ideas may sound pretty normal to most of us 21st Century readers – Ball, you might think, just sounds like your average left-winger. But this speech was written over 630 years ago, when it was considered dangerous to even think this sort of thing, let alone preach it. That’s why this speech is so important.
Sadly, both Ball and Tyler were executed as traitors for their egalitarian views. They were killed because their proto-socialist and progressive beliefs were seen as a threat to the established order of society. Still, their actions and their words live on. Continue reading