College students everywhere: the struggle really is real.
When most think of high school they think of friend drama, parties, getting your drivers license, and best of all foot ball games.
I know nothing about football. Seriously, nothing. However, going to the turf on Friday nights in the fall is one of my favorite things. The crisp air, the hot chocolate, the packed stands, the face paint, and the overall school unity. For me, its not about the game (although a win is great.) For me its all about the atmosphere, and the people.
I love the band playing in the background, and the dancers on the track in front. The bright lights, yet surrounding darkness. The crazy loud cheers, and wild outfits to fit the nights theme. The inevitable playing of Sweet Caroline and dancing of over excited students.
Those Friday Night Lights truly are the best.
Rhetoric, in all its forms, arrives under the scrutiny of historians both for its historical impact and literary value. Dozens of speeches have either rallied the nation together or driven it drastically apart –– the impact of speeches in politics, social movements, and wars is undeniable.
So, I present the ten most powerful speeches from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. I am only including those made after the widespread use of picture-and-audio-synced cameras. You will notice that there are no female speakers; hopefully, this will change as time, and society, wanes on. The list is in order of oldest to most recent.
This speech is among the most widely known of a president. Its meaning became the battle cry of an impoverished people, who were relying on the charismatic, newly-inaugurated Roosevelt to lead them through the valley of the Great Depression. The oration is in great contrast to much of his campaign, which was marked by him actually speaking poignantly very little. Emerging technology also made it more accessible for the average citizen to view or read this speech.
Years later, President Roosevelt took the podium in a Congress chamber to deliver a stern message not only to its members, but the American people. He condemned the monstrosity that had occurred in Hawaii, an act by the "Empire of Japan". Less than an hour after the speech's delivery, Congress approved for the United States to formally join the Allies in WWII.
On a frigid January day, swashbuckling Massachusetts native John F. Kennedy took the oath of office, inaugurating the age of Camelot in the United States that would see the makings of the Cold War. His words stood in contrast to the legacy of his predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower, whose words hardly ever became so impassioned. JFK's youth and enthusiasm, along with his many controversies, make his speeches even more remarkable in the eyes of history.
Just five months before his assassination, President Kennedy traveled to Berlin to reassure the citizens of West Berlin that they were approved of-- and protected-- by the United States. JFK mentions the ages-old "I am a citizen of Rome," relating it to democratic Germany instead. He even spoke in German at parts, his famous line being "I am a Berliner," in an unmistakable Massachusetts accent.
The now-beloved reverend and civil rights leader MLK was a master of rhetoric. His years of training for church and excellent education make him not only articulate, but inspiring too. Hundreds of thousands of marchers witnessed King plea for a future in which his children, and their children, would not be bound by their race.
The speech was given to a congregation in Memphis, mainly concerning the Memphis Sanitation strikes. Little did anyone know this would be MLK's last public speech. As always, he advocated for nonviolence, boycotts, and peaceful protests. His tone shifts near the end. His family and other advisers had seen the danger in Memphis and other places King travelled, and had tried to dissuade him from continuing. He speaks of the possibility of an early death of his; the speech is truly prophetic, as MLK was assassinated the very next evening.
It is common knowledge that the ever-paranoid Richard Nixon was embroiled in scandal several times in his career, especially the presidency. He foresaw his impeachment and decided to resign instead, though not truly admitting his guilt. To this day, he is the only president to willingly step down from an active term.
With the Cold War coming to a close and the USSR on the brink of collapse, President Reagan returned to where JFK had stood to deliver a clear message to "Mr. Gorbachev": to destroy the hastily-built Berlin Wall that split Germany.
The terrorist attacks of that fateful morning made another date which will live in infamy. President Bush left his reading appointment at an elementary school to fly to New York and stand among the rubble with emergency workers and press surrounding him. He had a fireman under one arm and held a megaphone with the other.
Barack Obama, who stepped to the forefront of politics after delivering a powerful speech at the 2004 DNC, defeated Republican John McCain and became the first non-white man to serve as the president of the United States. His campaign promise of "yes we can," followed him through two full terms, leading to the triumphant phrase of "yes we did."
By now, people are probably sick of hearing me talk about myself, so I’m changing it up this week. In keeping with the subject of my J-Term class, I’m asking myself a political what-if question. What if we could create a sovereign global government firmly grounded in justice that could actually adjudicate Earth’s many disparate nation-states into one unified world government?
I should confess up front that I have a vision of the world as it appears in the universe of the Star Trek franchise. The Earth of the Star Trek universe has unified the entire world under one unitary governing body, and war, famine, disease, and conflict are things of the past. The human race in general has evolved to a higher moral standard that obviates greed, envy, and other harmful impulses. This collective dedication to the betterment of the human condition fosters fantastic technological progress that allows humanity to explore the galaxy that we have thus far only been able to contemplate philosophically.
Right away, I acknowledge that there are many, many issues with the question that I have just posed. Perhaps the foremost objection to this question is that such a government would never be practical or feasible. The picture I’ve just painted is a fanciful, pie-in the sky, pipe dream that deserves only derision. After all, the world is wracked with nations of implacable enemies engaged in centuries-old disputes that seem intractable.
However, since this is not an academic paper, but an article where I have much greater creative freedom, I will defer addressing the many logistical concerns with bringing such a dream about. Instead, I’ll focus on a few choice hypotheticals that I think would bring today’s world a little closer to the one I described above. I realize that these suggestions range from merely impractical to borderline ludicrous. However, mankind has achieved things thought to be ludicrous before, and I think that given enough time and incentive, we could do so again.
The U.N. takes its proper place as a sovereign world government. If the United Nations were actually to wield the power that Woodrow Wilson envisioned for it at one point, then perhaps a united front of nations prepared to use armed resistance against Adolf Hitler might have prevented, or at least delayed, WWII. Unfortunately, the League’s structure and mandate prevented much productive agreement on issues because of both the required unanimous vote to enact policy and the inherent aversion of member countries to support any policy that did not suit its own interests. Perhaps a sovereign U.N. government with power to settle disputes both diplomatic and military could prevent a WWIII.
Failing the prevention of such a conflict, I believe (and hope) that a third world war would force a collective reevaluation of human morality. Such an examination of conscience would require the many nations to reprioritize the interests of others, sometimes ahead of their own. This would be not only a revision to government policy but to morality and philosophy at both the personal and global levels. Basically, better government would be served by better people.
Another thing tied in to the revision of human morality is the death of money. Were the idea of money to go the way of the dinosaur, acquisition and greed would no longer be the driving forces in our lives, and we would have to dedicate ourselves to new, healthier pursuits (in theory, at least.) Maybe the creation of a new world economy with some kind of barter system would replace our current fascination with currency.Once again, I want to emphasize that these ideas are all merely my own flights of fancy. They represent what I think the world could be like, maybe in a thousand years or just ten. Who knows?
As the General Assembly convenes, here is the United Nations 101
For an organization that literally unites the nations, it amazes me how little is taught about the United Nations in schools, or at least where I went to school. It wasn't until I went to college and got a higher education that I learned the basics of the United Nations. I believe that every American should know at least the basics of what the United Nations does, especially since our country is one of the 5 permanent members. So here are the main "organs" of the United Nations.
The visual above is a much more complex look at the organs of the United Nations, a more generalized description can be found below.
General Assembly- Each of the states (countries) in the United Nations is a member of the General Assembly. They make important decisions about peace and security. For something to get passed or at least given a second look it must get 2/3 votes.
Security Council- The Security Council is much more powerful than the General Assembly. It is made up of 5 permeant members: China, Soviet Union (now Russia), France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and 10 non-permeant members that are elected every two years from the General Assembly. Each of these 15 states has one vote and the permanent member states can veto any substantive issue.
Economic and Social Council- There are 54 members who are voted in and out by the General Assembly. They vote on all things that involve the world economy and social issues.
Secretary General- They have a five year term, are nominated by the Security Council, and elected by the General Assembly. The Secretary General is elected from states that aren't as powerful so there is proper global representation. Ban Ki-moon, from South Korea is the current Secretary General but his term ends this December, so be on the look out for a new Secretary General very soon.
International Court of Justice- The ICJ is the world court in the UN. There are 15 justices, who each have 9 year terms. They don't have much power, they mostly just advise countries.
The United Nations is a lot more complex than what I've described here, but after reading this you'll know more than the average American about the UN.
1. Brittany Morgan, National Writer's Society
2. Radhi, SUNY Stony Brook
3. Kristen Haddox, Penn State University
4. Jennifer Kustanovich, SUNY Stony Brook
5. Clare Regelbrugge, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign