Presidential and Historical Speeches

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People in the United States greatly value their cur­rent and historical leaders. Following our democratic tradi­tion, these leaders are remembered not only for their actions, but also for their speeches and proclama­tions to the American people. Beginning with President George Washington’s call for unity in his 1796 Farewell Address, American leaders often emphasized similar themes when addressing the Nation.

President Abraham Lincoln perhaps best expressed the concept of unity and a common civic identity during the American Civil War, when our Nation’s unity was severely threatened. Lincoln’s speeches are also famous for referring to America, with its values and democratic system, as an important example for the rest of the world.

Much later, Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy called upon these same ideas in important speeches during times of crisis, and President Ronald Reagan was clearly inspired by these principles in his call for freedom around the world during the Cold War. In this section, you will also read about a leader who, rather than looking outside our borders, called on America itself to live up to its promise as a land of liberty and equality.

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