Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has almost single handedly rallied the governments and peoples of much of the world to his country’s cause as Russia moves further and further along in the invasion of his country. Among the most impressive aspects of his addresses to legislatures in several countries has been his ability to quote famous wartime leaders from these nations’ pasts. (Here is a look at the recent military history of every former Soviet Republic.)
He has referred to Franklin Roosevelt’s speech to Congress the day after Pearl Harbor, and addresses Winston Churchill gave in The House of Commons at the start of World War II when the U.K. was in a desperate condition in its war with Germany.
At the far end of the spectrum, Russian President Vladimir Putin has given one public speech since the start of the invasion. The wooden performance was in front of a stadium of people waving Russian flags, though his words a month earlier resonated worldwide.
Wartime speeches have been used to rally armies and nations for millenia, and records of them go as far back as Ancient Greece. Some are among the most well-known orations in history. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address has been the subject of a number of books, the most well known of which may be “Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America” (1992) by Garry Wills. The address was only 272 words.
No matter how eloquent or popular these war times speeches have been, their underlying meanings have often been lost. They are a call for one group of people to kill another. This is most directly stated in the speech General George Patten gave to the U.S. 6th Armored Division in 1944 at the height of WWII. He said, “No bаstаrd ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bаstаrd die for his country.”
Wars are about killing, plain and simple. And war speeches therefore, no matter how well written or spoken, are simply about trying to get people to kill other people. (These are the wars in which the most Americans died.)
24/7 Wall St. listed quotes from some of the greatest wartime speeches in history using editorial discretion.
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