OZY on Great Orators

OZY on Great Orators

Why you should care

Because these leaders brought the house down with their rhetorical mastery.

Buckley vs. Baldwin: The Great(est) Debaters

Public debates almost always completely and totally suck. But one exception to that unfortunate rule comes from the archives of 1965 — a debate about this question: “Has the American dream been achieved at the expense of the American Negro?” William F. Buckley Jr. (the very grandfather of modern conservatism) vs. James Baldwin (among the 20th century’s most important writers — and who just happened to be black and gay) went down in the U.K. at the University of Cambridge. It’s easy to paint the winner, but there’s much to be learned from the losing team.

When Hillary Took China by Storm

Love her or hate her, there’s no denying Hillary laid a marker down that day in 1995 at the United Nations’ international conference on women. Her words on the global movement for women’s rights were delivered in a way that seems just as urgent and relevant today. The relatively undiplomatic decision by the former lawyer, senator and secretary of state to address the issues was a shock to the system at the time, but one it certainly needed. By the standards of international conferences — which are normally sleepy, buttoned-down affairs — the cheers were deafening.

Saying So Long to the Silver-Tongued Silvio

What’s behind Berlusconi’s success? How has he managed to dominate Italian politics for 20 years, win three elections and create a political system that can’t seem to distance itself from his outsize presence? The answer is simple: deliciously delivered silver-tongued speeches. Since Berlusconi first ”descended into the field” of politics, some saw an Italian Ronald Reagan, a man capable of triggering a sorely needed economic revolution. What he ultimately gave his country, however, was not a free-market champion, but rather one of its greatest orators. Which might explain and even justify his megalomania — but we’re not making excuses.

Teddy’s Eulogy for Bobby

He may not have been the orator that his older brothers Jack and Bobby were, but Teddy had a Kennedy-esque way of rising to the oratorical occasion. And many would argue that his greatest speech was the stirring eulogy for Bobby that he delivered at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on June 8, 1968. It is Teddy’s own words, and the masterful rhythm and dignity with which they are delivered, that do his brother and his vision justice. Just listen as he offers his closing benediction, his voice trembling over “to his rest” — three words that capture a brother’s heartbreak and a nation’s incalculable loss.

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Square pegs. Round holes.