Give Me Liberty: Speakers and Speeches that Have Shaped America
Christopher L. Webber
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Sure to become a classic of American oratorical history, ?Give Me Liberty reveals the enduring power of America's quest for a freer and more just society, and the context of the speeches and speakers―from Daniel Webster and Patrick Henry to Martin Luther King and Ronald Reagan―that gave voice to the struggle. ?
"Give me liberty," demanded Patrick Henry, "or give me death!" Henry's words continue to echo in American history and that quote, and the speech it comes from, remains one of the two or three known to almost every American. The other speeches that have become part of our American collective consciousness all have one theme in common: liberty. These feats of oration seem to trace the evolution of America's definition of liberty, and who it applies to. But what exact is liberty?
It is a term open to a broad range of opinion, and questions about freedom arise daily in the news and in everyday life. Perhaps uniquely among the nations of the world, the United States traces its origins to groups and individuals who specifically wanted create something new. Webber's insightful Give Me Liberty looks at these great speeches and provides the historical context, focusing attention on particular individuals who summed up the issues of their own day in words that have never been forgotten. Webber gleans lessons from the past centuries that will allow us to continue to strive for the ideals of liberty in the 21st century.
affiliated states seemed unable to resolve the pressing issues that faced them: how to carry on relationships with other countries, how to protect American shipping, and how to satisfy debts acquired in the war. Finally, a convention was called for the announced purpose of improving that loose federation, but instead the convention drew up a completely new Constitution and asked the states to ratify it. Once again, Patrick Henry unleashed his oratorical gifts, but now to oppose the proposed new
could. The idea of Springfield as campaign headquarters was probably a bad one. Springfield was simply not a big enough city to provide the facilities needed. It came to look like a disaster area, like a city recovering from a tornado. There was tension from the beginning between Truman and those around him, who thought Stevenson should rely on experienced professionals, and Stevenson and his staff, who believed he had accomplished what he had precisely because he had not relied on experienced
become a threat to American freedom. He talked about schoolteachers and the danger to their freedom when they were attacked by “self-appointed thought police or ill-informed censors.” Such activities, he said, do nothing to “stop communist activity” but only “give the communists material with which to defame us.”53 Carl McGowan and others thought the Legion address was the high point of the campaign. It certainly established Stevenson’s credibility with liberals who were worried about the impact
the solution to our problem; government is the problem.… It is my intention to curb the size and influence of the Federal establishment and to demand recognition of the distinction between the powers granted to the Federal Government and those reserved to the States or to the people. Then he spelled out his understanding of American government on an issue that went back to Patrick Henry: All of us need to be reminded that the Federal Government did not create the States; the States created the
http://reagan2020.us/speeches/First_State_of_the_Union.asp 64. Reagan, Ronald. Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress Reporting on the State of the Union, January 25, 1984. http://reagan2020.us/speeches/state_of_the_union_1984.asp 65. Bush, George H. W. State of the Union Address, Envisioning One Thousand Points of Light, January 29, 1991. Infoplease.com http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0900156.html#ixzz2pRigz4dN 66. Clinton, William J. Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress on