Top 10 Greatest Orators Provide Groundwork for Today’s Famous Motivational Speakers

Posted by Sheldon Senek

As a Speakers Bureau, Eagles Talent has the expertise in identifying top motivational speakers. We understand all the tangibles needed to be a successful speaker. Below, we study some of the most influential speakers (from ancient history to today) and note the common thread that makes professional keynote speakers successful. If there’s one thing that hasn’t changed in speaking, it’s the mission of a presenter: create positive change (through content, inspiration, or entertainment).



(495 – 429 BC)


His famed Funeral Oration is significant because it departed from the typical formula of Athenian funeral speeches, and instead was a glorification of Athens’ achievements designed to stir the spirits of a nation at war. A noted speaker before this speech, Pericles essentially redefined the public speech.

David Trumble is a well-respected artist who is an out-of-the-box thinker (like Pericles was) and speaker. He approaches topics, like his art, from a unique point of view–which makes us redefine our lives (personally and professionally).



(384–322 BC)

After conquering his stuttering affliction, Demosthenes begins a lengthy process of studying the speeches of previous Greek orators, including Pericles. In his most famous speech as an official orator of Greece, he warns against Philip – the Macedonian king and father of Alexander the Great – as he sets out to conquer Greece. Three orations against Philip, known as the Philippics, were so heated and bitter that today a severe speech denouncing someone is called a Philippic.


While we won’t provide a speaker who denounces someone, it’s good to point out the speakers who can be philosophical and predict what our future looks like. An example of this is Mike Walsh (futurist speaker).



Abraham Lincoln
(1809 –1865)

Despite being only three minutes long, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is a cornerstone of American history. His speech rallied a nation and set created a foundation of American idealism for future generations.

Tim Sanders has the tone and content, similar to Lincoln, to get his audience to rally behind his ideas of being a better person, building better relationships.


Winston Churchill
(1874 –1965)

As a young army officer stationed in India in 1897 Churchill wrote: “Of all the talents bestowed upon men, none is so precious as the gift of oratory.” And he never forgot it.

His speeches in 1940 at the outset of World War II cemented his reputation as one of the greatest orators in history.  In an effort to boost public moral during the war, Churchill delivered one of his most stirring speeches to Parliament on June 18, 1940.

Referring to Hitler and the looming Nazi threat, Churchill laid out the facts in the clearest of manners. “If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free . . . But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States . . . will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will say, ‘This was their finest hour.’” Wow!


While Churchill boosted public moral, Mike Abrashoff, was the Commander of the USS Benfold, where he turned a sub-performing ship to one of the best in the fleet.



Mohandas Gandhi
(1869 –1948)

The Quit India speech made by Mahatma Gandhi on August 8, 1942 called for a determined but passive resistance against England’s continued occupation of the country.

The speech is considered a masterful work for both its ability to motivate and its effective message of nonviolence.  More than two decades later Martin Luther King, Jr., would return to many of the themes in Gandhi’s speech with his

I Have a Dream speech that promoted nonviolence and equality of races.

From nonviolence to promoting happiness. Take a listen to John C. Havens. How do we become happier — more importantly, how can you measure it? Could you imagine if Gandhi was able to measure nonviolence in an app?



Looking for today’s top orators to present for your group? You’re in the right place. Our connection with today’s most celebrated keynote speakers (business thought leaders, inspirational speakers, sports speakers, and more) is unmatched.  For more information about how motivational speakers like these can impact your event, contact Eagles Talent at 1.800.345.5607 or email us at: [email protected]



John F. Kennedy
(1917 – 1963)

Perhaps President’s Kennedy’s finest oration moment was his Ich Bin Ein Berliner speech – a notable moment of the Cold War. Delivered in front of the Berlin Wall in 1963, the speech provided a morale boost for West Berliners who feared an imminent East German occupation.

“Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was civis Romanus sum [I am a Roman citizen]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!’… All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!’

Okay, so technical speaking what JFK told those German’s that summer day nearly 50 years ago actually meant: “I am a Jelly Donut” (No kidding, look it up). However, the crowd understood what the young president was speaking about and so did the Soviet Union.

JFK perfected the tone of leadership, that’s a quality you’ll find when you watch Mark Thompson. After all, Mark worked with some of the great business leaders of our time: Sir Richard Branson, Charles Schwab, and Steve Jobs.



Nelson Mandela
(1918 – Present)

The son of a tribal chieftain, Nelson Mandela joined the African National Congress in 1944. He was arrested in 1962 and charged with the capital crimes of sabotage and crimes that were equivalent to treason in Apartheid area South Africa. He delivered a defiant speech during his trial that is still a powerful reminder of equality and justice that should be required reading in schools today.

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” He spent the next 27 years in prison.

Here’s a speaker who embraces the spirit of Nelson Mandela — doing something bigger than yourself. Doc Hendley saw a problem with contaminated water being one of the highest causes of death. He did something about it, one location at a time.



Martin Luther King Jr.
(1929 –1968)


Perhaps one of the most quoted and well known speeches in American history, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream’” speech (now celebrating the 50th year anniversary of this speech) at Lincoln Memorial called for racial equality and an end to discrimination. The Civil Rights leader honed his speaking skills in churches, public meeting halls and demonstrations during this volatile era.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Simple, clear, powerful.

By no means do we draw any comparisons to the great Martin Luther King, Jr., his style of speaking is all about passion. The first speaker we think of when we think passion is Walter Bond. He has such a love for speaking and having his attendees wanting to be a better person. 



Ronald Reagan
(1911 – 2004)

They called him “The Great Communicator” and it helped that President Reagan was a former actor, but the future president sharpened his public speaking skills as a spokesman for General Electric Theater. It was here that he embarked on speaking tours of General Electric plants throughout the country that would help shape his political ideology as well as his oratory skills.

In his 1987 “Tear Down This Wall’ speech, he used all his training to deliver another memorable Cold War moment.

“General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

There is only one Ronald Reagan, and there is only one Barbara Corcoran. She understands how to put an audience at ease with her humor, but she also knows how to make a strong point — she didn’t become a Shark Tank investor by accident.


Barack Obama
(1961 to Present)

The latest to join this list, President Obama’s soaring, sustained oratory can be extremely powerful when he chooses to harnesses his full capabilities. His victory address to crowds in Chicago after his historic election was widely regarded as one of the finest speeches in modern politics.

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy – tonight is your answer.”


Sticking with politics, but not being political, we know that a huge part of being a president is about networking and creating great opportunities. Laura Schwartz, the former White House Director of Events, has done just that. In her message, all things are possible, it’s up to us to make things happen.



A Note on the Top Historic Orators

It was in Ancient Greece during a period considered the “Golden Age of Eloquence” that the great tradition of oration burst forth on that nation’s political stage and debate would never be the same. While the statesman, general, and master orator Pericles is largely credited with delivering the first great speech to be written and prepared for the public, it was a stutterer who is remembered as the greatest orator Greece ever produced, and perhaps the greatest the world has ever known.

In the 4th century BC, Demosthenes was cured of his speech impediment, in part, through the now seemingly archaic practice of placing pebbles in the stutterer’s mouth; a practice still employed nearly 2,400 years later, as showcased in the recent Academy Award winning film The King’s Speech.

The story of Demosthenes, and later King George VI, suggests something that every great orator knows:  The art of public speaking can be learned and the techniques of oratory are teachable.

The following 10 noted speakers understood this more than most.



For more information about how inspiring speakers like these can impact your event, contact Eagles Talent Speakers Bureau at 1.800.345.5607 or email us at: [email protected]


Posted by Sheldon Senek
Sheldon Senek is the President of Eagles Talent Speakers Bureau and writes about expert keynote speakers and Motivational Speakers, as well as tips for corporate meeting planners.

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