Ten Pieces of Inspiration #74

Each week, I highlight ten things each week that inspired me to greater financial, personal, and professional success. Hopefully, they will inspire you as well.

This past week, I’ve spent some significant time working on my public speaking skills due to some upcoming situations where I will be called on to speak before a crowd and either inspire them or keep them entertained. I’ve watched a bunch of speeches on YouTube, looking for ones that inspired me so that I could study the techniques. This week, I’m going to share ten of them. (A few may be repeated from earlier entries in this series.)

1. Jim Valvano’s “never give up” speech
Valvano was seriously ill with cancer when he delivered this speech, but he hit an absolute home run with it, managing to be charming, funny, and yet incredibly serious as well. The Jimmy V Foundation has gone on to do wonderful work in cancer research and they use this speech constantly, and for good reason.

2. Barack Obama’s 2004 Democratic National Convention speech
You can make up your own mind as to whether Obama has lived up to this speech, but you’d be hard pressed to deny the strength of this speech.

3. Oprah Winfrey’s 2008 Stanford commencement address
Regardless of my own mixed feelings about the content of her shows and her public persona, I have an immense amount of respect for Oprah’s ability to pull herself up by her bootstraps. Life is what you make of it.

4. Winston Churchill’s “we shall fight them on the beaches” speech (excerpt)
Perfectly sober and powerful at an incredibly sober and powerful moment in history. He doesn’t go for the fist-pounding oratory, but keeps it more subdued – but, somehow, that makes it even more powerful.

5. Randy Pausch on time management
This is perhaps the best speech on time mangement I’ve ever seen. The importance of the topic, the speaker’s enthusiasm for it, and the simplicity of his plan all come together here.

Pausch turns out to be the only person to appear twice on this list, and for good reason. He was a great speaker.

6. Ronald Reagan’s address following the Challenger disaster
The Challenger disaster really shook me as a child. I vividly remember watching this speech the evening after that disaster, after watching the coverage of the disaster that day at school. This is a beautiful eulogy.

7. Atticus Finch’s courtroom speech from To Kill a Mockingbird
This was my favorite book during my high school years. Gregory Peck is wonderful in the film version, and this speech is a major highlight.

8. The St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V
I have a big soft spot in my heart for Shakespeare, and this is probably my favorite scene from all of it. If you’re not into Shakespeare, you might balk at the language, but if you have any appreciation for the Bard, this is just wonderful.

“We happy few, we band of brothers…”

9. Randy Pausch’s last lecture
Entitled “Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” this presentation takes on new meaning because of the illness threatening Pausch at the time. It went on to become a bestselling book.

10. Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement speech
I have watched a ton of commencement speeches in the last few weeks, and this one is simply the high water mark.

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