Top 10 Most Influential Speeches

Jeff Cochran


Have you ever watched a political debate between U.S. congressmen or senators broadcast on C-Span, and heard one party in the debate accuse the other party of using ‘rhetoric?’

The accusation usually goes, “That’s just more rhetoric from Senator so-and-so,” and it’s stated as if to besmirch the good name of rhetoric. At least that seems to be how general audiences are meant to take it anyway, as if rhetoric is some kind of dirty political game. So, let’s get clear about what that word means, just for a second.

Simply stated, rhetoric is the logical structure that composes a selection of words into a persuasive, moving, entertaining, and/or instructive message. That means every coherent statement ever uttered followed a rhetorical structure. Yes, that also includes deception, and praise, and flattery.

The senator who accuses the other senator of using rhetoric, is himself employing rhetoric. What does that mean? While there may be some real dunces in politics, but most senator types are educated and polished professional communicators. They know what rhetoric is and what it isn’t. And their common condemnation of ‘rhetoric’ as such, is typically a rhetorical ploy to counter a hollow, ideological argument without appearing to categorically renounce the ideology itself, presumably because it’s popular. That’s some pretty clever rhetoric. Wouldn’t you agree?

In sales, public speaking, negotiation, argumentation and even personal communication understanding the basics of rhetoric gives us a framework for improvement. So let’s take a look at the rhetoric of some famous speeches.

  1. The Gettysburg Address – Abraham Lincoln

The world famous ‘Gettysburg Address’ speech was given by President Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, PA on November 19, 1863 at the dedication of the National Cemetery.

The primary address at the ceremony was delivered by a famous orator at the time, Edward Everett, and was one of two hours. After such a compelling speech, it appeared that Lincoln’s brief but sincere speech hardly even mattered at the time. However, in spite of a bit of criticism from his opponents, the speech was commonly quoted and hugely praised and was soon recognized as a classic masterpiece of outstanding poetry.

  1. I Have a Dream – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous 17-minute long public speech delivered on August 28, 1963, was a direct call to end discrimination and support racial equality. The speech was a defining moment in the history of the American Civil Rights Movement. Dr. King’s speech ranked as one of the top U.S. American speeches of the 20th century conducted by a group of educational scholars regarding public address in 1999.

  1. Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

One early afternoon, President Franklin D. Roosevelt along with Harry Hopkins (Roosevelt’s chief foreign policy aide) were both interrupted by a call from Henry Stimson (Secretary of War) and were informed that Japan just attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. At around 5pm that evening after numerous meetings with his key military advisers, President Roosevelt decisively and calmly dictated a speech off the top of his head to Grace Tully (Roosevelt’s secretary) to make a request to Congress for a formal declaration of war.

  1. Ich bin ein Berliner – John Fitzgerald Kennedy

In 1963, President Kennedy gave one of his most moving speeches ever to the world in West Berlin. Besides “ask not”, it was the most well-known speech he ever delivered. Those heartfelt words captured the attention of the world regarding what Kennedy considered the warmest spot in the Cold War. Scribbled into his hand at the very last moment, they were his very own words; unlike the majority of his other addresses created by uniquely gifted speechwriters. This was even more amazing since Kennedy had a reputation for being tongue-tied when trying to pronounce or speak foreign languages. Ironically, the most famous four words of the entire speech were in German – Ich bin ein Berliner (“I am one with the people of Berlin”).

  1. The Great Silent Majority – Richard Milhous Nixon

President Richard Nixon gave his address to the nation regarding the War in Vietnam on November 3, 1969 about his plans to end it. His address is commonly called the ‘Silent Majority’ speech because towards the end he asked for “the great silent majority of my fellow Americans” for support, meaning the ones who were onboard with his policies but never actually spoke up. The President was contrasting these average American citizens without reserve using vocal adversaries of his said policies who demonstrated and protested against the war, like they did in Washington, D.C. in October of that same year.

  1. The Military Industrial Complex – Dwight David Eisenhower

In President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell address, he cautioned American citizens to keep a wary eye on a growing socioeconomic force he referred to as the ‘military industrial complex.’ Eisenhower proved downright prophetic given that the military industrial complex did indeed develop into a powerful entity in the years following World War II. President Eisenhower’s frank language shocked a few of his followers. However, for most listeners, it appeared obvious that Eisenhower was just stating the obvious. Both World War II and the subsequent Cold War lead to the development of a substantial and strong defense organization. Eisenhower warned that this military industrial complex may eventually weaken or devastate the very principles and institutions it was created to protect in the end.

  1. Kenyon College Commencement “This is Water” – David Foster Wallace

It was only one time that David Foster Wallace ever spoke publicly regarding his point of view on life. The parable “This is Water,” was delivered during a commencement speech addressed at Kenyon College in 2005. The speech itself encapsulates Wallace’s gifted mind as well as his trademark humility due to the way it gave meaning to the lonely, beautiful thoughts that roamed about in his head and the way he made people ‘think’ better in general. “This is Water,” is a meaningful parable about the process of constructing meaning from one’s own life, no matter the path it follows.

  1. A Left-Handed Commencement Address – Ursula Le Guin

Le Guin’s “A Left-Handed Commencement Address” perfectly summarizes the area of feminism that highlights the fundamental peaceful qualities of women compared to most men. Le Guin spoke the established binary hierarchies that, as she saw it, govern society. She pointed out how historically, men have always fought wars and were generally thought of as ‘opposites’: fail/succeed, lose/win, weak/strong, false/true, as Le Guin so eloquently put it — women have lived, and have therefore been loathed for living. She goes on to say that women are the entire side of life that involves and takes responsibility for everything that’s unclean, animal, uninhibited, passive, and obscure — the valley of the deep, depths of life.

  1. On the Adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous 1948 speech is considered by a number of experts as one of the most amazing and profound speeches ever addressed throughout modern history. Ms. Eleanor, the widow of former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave the address in Paris, France on December 9, 1948. She spoke to the United Nations at a precarious time when the Soviet Union was throwing its weight around following the Second World War in Eastern Europe.

  1. Women’s Rights are Human Rights – Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton

Sometimes the facts carry enough rhetorical weight to speak for themselves. When facts of that sort are delivered by a significantly authoritative presenter, you have the makings of a very potent speech.

When Hillary Rodham Clinton took the stage at the UN Conference on Women in 1995, it was her detailed list of atrocities against women and young girls that captured the audience’s interest. It wasn’t that they were unaware of the crimes, since the majority of the audience were advocates for the rights of women in many countries across the world in their own right. But, the key difference was that such an important political female voice brought the issues to light and therefore took on a whole new meaning.

How Hiring Managers Know When You’re Telling the Truth

Jeff Cochran


Potential hires want the position you are offering for a number of reasons. While it is unfortunate, desperation sometimes motivates interviewees to tell partial truths, omit details, or blatantly lie. In fact, there are many posts on the internet that encourage white lies that seem “harmless.” Several of these deceits are common across multiple industries, and below are the ones employers most frequently see.

Negotiation Training Tactics

Lies About Experience

This is a top one for many reasons. Often, potential employees find it difficult to break in to the job market with the amount or type of experience they have. For this reason, they are inclined to exaggerate or even fabricate the types of jobs they’ve held in the past.

A small amount of negotiations training and influence training, however, can help you weed out sincere candidates from false ones. Are they being general or vague about their duties? Have they mentioned keywords that are irrefutably connected to expertise? Do they make an attempt to navigate away from their past experience rather than expanding upon it?


Educational Exaggeration

Negotiation training and corporate sales training both encourage diving deeper to get beneath the top layer of statements. This is a particularly important skill when interviewing a candidate regarding his or her education. Some common lies told by interviewees regarding post-secondary schooling involve areas that will be difficult for employers to verify – i.e., having completed all but three of their courses or having run into administrative issues when filing to graduate.

The best way to weed out these lies is by using logic. If a candidate paid for eight semesters of education and faithfully attended their classes, why would they choose to decline a diploma? Would a reasonable person allow administrative issues to negate the investment of time and finances they made?


Lies Regarding Termination of Employment

These lies are seemingly easy to verify, but current laws prohibit previous employers from disclosing many details about their employees. Therefore, verifying the accuracy of statements about past jobs falls largely on the shoulders of the potential new employer. If the interviewee’s old offices have given outstanding reviews, this shouldn’t be a difficult process. If, however, they were vague on the phone, consider additional factors.

What amount of time did the candidate spend at his or her previous job? How large is the gap in employment between the last position and the one currently interviewing for? Generally, those who make the conscious decision to part from a company leave themselves precious little time before deliberately pursing a new income source.

By checking that the statements made by candidates are reasonable, if not verifiable, business owners can ensure they hire the most qualified and deserving candidate.


Negotiation Lifehacks: the three D’s

Jeff Cochran


Some people may feel like negotiation isn’t really a skill-set they need to develop because they don’t work in sales, or law, or sports management or whatever. But the truth is everybody — except maybe for certain categories of criminals and tyrants — negotiates to have their personal needs and interests met.

Negotiation isn’t the same thing as manipulation. The difference between those two things hinges on the difference between good faith and bad faith. Negotiation is a good faith effort to have our personal wants and needs met.

Here are a few examples of everyday situations in which negotiation becomes necessary:

  • Maybe you need to sell something of value and can’t afford to sacrifice on the price, but the value you imagine isn’t imagined the same way by others.
  • Maybe you need to marshal support of peers and colleagues for an idea you feel strongly about.
  • Perhaps you need to settle a debt.

Because situations like these come up all the time, negotiation really is an ordinary, everyday task. It’s just one that requires extraordinary preparation to master.

All of us have conversations everyday. And we’ve all heard conversation referred to as an artform. Well, by extension, negotiation is the art of difficult conversations. And prepared negotiation is the art of succeeding in difficult conversations, while retaining amicable relations. So let’s discuss some negotiation training and preparation techniques called the three D’s to help us work toward mastery.


Most of us understand how we feel on emotional levels, as opposed to intellectual levels, which means articulating our feeling without allowing emotion to dominate their expression in conversation can often feel a little strange and awkward. There’s a school of thought that characterizes honest communication as the simple act of describing how you feel, and then clearly stating what you want. It’s a simple two-step process. While that may seem overly simplistic at a glance, deeper inspection shows it’s not. Sitting down before hand to gather thoughts and sort out how we feel about the details of a situation, and then ruminate on a workable solution takes our personal, emotional experience and transmutes those vague thoughts into focused and defined concepts that can be expressed clearly. In some cases, like a tense situation or a dispute that requires resolution, the drafting stage can provide some catharsis that purges negative emotions from the situation.

Drafting gets to the substance of what you want to say, but it is not the end of the conversation. A couple of other aspects to consider in the drafting stage are:

  • Objectives: What do you hope to accomplish in this negotiation? Can it be broken down into a simple list?
  • Precedents: Can you think of any example where other people faced a similar situation? Where they successful, or did they fail? Is there a lesson for you to draw from in their experience?
  • Anecdotes: You may find that precedents lead to relatable stories. Telling stories is a great method for taking a particular circumstances and making them universally relatable. Consider applying this method without turning into Ben Matlock, if possible.

Devil’s Advocate

The devil’s advocate stage is where we put the draft we’ve compiled to the test. The goal is to verify whether or not the drafting stage sufficiently exorcised the emotions involved, or if our argument is still under the influence of those emotions in ways that are counterproductive to the goals. If the emotions and the logic don’t merge into a persuasive argument, the devil’s advocate will help reveal which of the pertinent thoughts, feelings, hopes, and expectations should remain on the negotiation table, and which ones should go.

Some questions to consider in the devil’s advocate stage are:

  • What happens if things don’t work out?
  • What are some alternate outcomes you’re willing to consider?
  • To what degree do alternative outcomes satisfy your interests?
  • What are the needs and wants of the other party that you may be able to address?
  • What are the other party’s options if they choose not to work it out with you?

Recruit a Trusted friend or colleague to play your devil’s advocate. Practice delivering the argument you develop from the drafting stage and have your devil’s advocate pose counterpoints. This will put you in the shoes of the other party. Devil’s advocacy may be an ongoing process. Perhaps more than one redraft will be necessary, so choose someone who can remain involved for as long as possible.


Remember the concept of honest communication from the beginning of this post? Describe how you feel. Then state what you want.

Remember how we considered whether or not the idea of saying how you feel and then asking for what you want, was overly-simplistic? It’s not. But it is easier said than done. For most people the hardest part about negotiation is the asking stage. Preparing yourself for the awkward request is the real crux of this process.

What makes the hard request easier is smooth and practiced delivery. The final conversation may happen in a different context, like a different time or a different location than expected. There may be unforeseen interruptions, or questions that arise and break up the flow you’ve rehearsed. This possibility also needs to be prepared for.

Here are a few tips for that process.

  • Keep your devil’s advocate on hand to act as your delivery coach.
  • Practice delivering your scripted argument, and have your devil’s advocate interrupt with challenges to your argument.

The need to negotiate does not arise from people harboring wants and needs they’re not entitled to. Negotiation arises when perfectly legitimate wants and needs are found to be at odds with the wants and needs of others, or vice versa. Those instances in which we must engage with others to find solutions for competing needs and interests are types of negotiations. Power disparities, social dynamics, and the nuances of each person’s individual perspective, and circumstances requires that each of us negotiate with others from time to time, or else resort to crime, tyranny, or the other side of that equation, victimhood and/or martyrdom.

What Does Your Body Language Say about You?

Andres Lares


There are tons of different studies, statistics, and anecdotal lessons on the emotive impact of body language. According to the overwhelming majority of research and statistics,  body language makes up the largest portion of communication. Most studies show that roughly 70% of communication doesn’t even come out of a person’s mouth, but through their body. What’s interesting is that body language is really just communicating what the mind is really thinking. The body normally responds to the subconscious mind and innately mirrors those conditions in order to communicate what is going on internally. There are plenty of people who write off the power of body language and prefer to listen purely to what a person is saying alone. However, a person has time to think and construct their sentences. They are able to work more out of their ego and shut their mouths if they don’t want to talk. However, it is virtually impossible for a person to shut down their body language without communicating zombie-like behavior. Even when people are quietly listening to someone else in a conversation, they are still communicating with their body language, demeanor and facial expressions. This type of non-verbal communication happens whether they want it to or not. For this reason, many people are fascinated with mastering the interpretation of body language. This is also the reason why many women read tons of articles about romantic body language because they want to know what their men are truly thinking. When people are operating in a business setting, body language is incredibly important because it can play a major role in whether a person experiences success or not. For the business setting, there are two major types of body language: strong and weak. This two types communicate the mind, and the emotional state of the person speaking.

Body Language-01


Strong Body Language

Strong body language is characterized by a few different components. When a person imagines a symbol of strength, it isn’t difficult to think of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. They are visibly strong with large, lean muscular builds. They are able to spread their arms and defy gravity and space. They each maintain their own presence and make it clear when they enter a room. The majority of these characteristics are communicated on the pages of comic books through depictions of strong body language. In the business setting, people with strong body language usually emit a palpable presence. Whether they are short or tall, they seem to take up space in the room. They will tend to sit in the front and center of a room, and during a discussion, they are the ones most likely to visibly assert themselves and dominate the conversation. When a person with strong body language enters the room, people take notice. People with strong body language have great posture. They stand with their shoulders back and keep their head up. They usually use their hands for gestures and can command control of the room through engaging body language during a discussion. During a business meeting that involves negotiation, strong body language is vital because strength communicates confidence and a person’s ability to win an argument. People are more likely to trust a strong mind and not a weak one.


Body Language-02


Weak Body Language

Weak body language obviously communicates the exact opposite of its counterpart. Instead of looking like some of the great superheroes, people with weak body language end up mirroring turtles. They are seen mimicking symbols of frailty. People who exude weak body language often shrink in a room. They are much more inclined to pull their bodies close to themselves and take up as little space as possible. They try their best to make sure they’re not seen or heard. They also tend to recluse and disengage during a conversation. They may touch their necks and pull their arms closer to their bodies. These non-verbal cues send the message that a person prefers to be less engaged and is intimidated in a specific setting. People with weak body language also don’t want to sit in an area that will draw attention. They prefer to sit in the corners and if they have a point during a discussion, it is very difficult for them to assert themselves over others. When they are looking to be called on in a classroom setting, they may raise their hands slightly, but the gesture is so small that it can easily go unnoticed by a professor or fellow classmates. The weak body language communicates a person’s lack of confidence in their ability to eloquently deliver their perspective to their colleagues.


Body Language-03


Fake It Until You Become It

Social psychologist Amy Cuddy delivered an excellent presentation at TED Global where she discussed the power of body language on success. She noted that in corporate settings, the majority of people who communicate powerful body language are usually men. Women are more likely to display weak body language. Women are often cast in social settings as the weaker sex, so there’s no surprise that this translates into business settings. As a woman of influence, she encourages women (and men) to learn to change their mindset in order to display powerful body language. The mind is so powerful because a person’s thoughts become their actions. Cuddy suggests a few practices to help transform the mind for success. She encourages the practice of power poses and positive affirmations. Power poses include stances with hands on hips with feet firmly planted in the ground or arms in the air as if they’re arriving at the finish line of a marathon. For example, a person who is going on a major job interview should prepare to get there a few minutes earlier than expected. Upon arriving at the building, a person should go to a private bathroom stall and give themselves a two-minute pep talk. While they mentally strengthen themselves, they should also stand in the power poses. This may sound bizarre, but her research proved that these tactics can literally help to change the trajectory of an interview.

Even though it may feel a bit silly to practice the poses and techniques, it is important to continue to practice them until it feels less awkward. These strategies can subliminally change the mind and encourage a person to begin thinking powerfully. Once a person’s mind is powerful, their body language will follow suit! So, strike a pose!

Taking Emotion out of Negotiation

Jeff Cochran


There are many times you come to work with a lot on your mind, and employees, potential hires, and outside salesmen can all sense it. Other times, youarrive in a meeting prepared to negotiate with someone who may incite negative emotions. Depending on the other party, you may feel intimidated. The following are a few things top negotiators rely on to keep emotions out of negotiations.


Effective Negotiations Training


Find Your Poker Face

A great way to start your negotiations training is by spending some time in the mirror. Study what your face looks like when relaxed. Practice various types of smiles and nods. It may feel silly, but once you have begun to associate the feeling of a particular expression with how that expression appears, you can recreate it more easily in the throes of a negotiation.


Breathe Deeply and Focus

When continuing your personal negotiation training, it is important to remember to breathe. Focusing on your breath will allow you to keep your systems calm: your heart will beat at a normal pace, your body will be continually oxygenated, and your mind and circulatory system will maintain an even keel.

Once you have focused on your breathing, make sure your mind is in the proper place. If you are running a thought on loop about how important this negotiation is or about the rewards or consequences of its outcome, you are likely too far in your own head to project an air of calmness and confidence. Replace those thoughts with ones that induce peace.

Think about your children, most recent vacation, or favorite spot to go for a morning run. If an opportunity for some alone time presents itself, amp up your calming practice by leaning back, closing your eyes, and focusing on your breath and a positive, serene scene. Confidence is power, and a collected demeanor will communicate an absolute sureness in your point and goals.


Check Your Tone

During your meeting, keep your tone in mind. A low, steady tone with your words properly paced is a good way to ensure any internal emotions you may have are not communicated to your associate.

Utilizing these methods, the scales will be tipped greatly in your favor for future negotiations. If you’d like to take your skills to the next level, there are courses in influence training and corporate sales training available that offer even more ideas on how to become an expert negotiator.