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Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History (Updated and Expanded Edition) Hardcover – October 17, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The third edition of this comprehensive collection of oratory through the ages is appropriately edited by former presidential speechwriter Safire—a man who knows firsthand the importance of putting together the right words for the right moment. But many readers will no doubt skip his prefatory lesson in rhetoric and go right to the speeches themselves. The selections range widely through Western history, from Pericles’s funeral oration to fallen Greek soldiers in the Peloponnesian War, to Tony Blair "exhorting his party to fight terrorism." History has yet to pass judgment on the greatness of the most recent speeches included here, but Safire shows a broad-minded, bipartisan inclusiveness in collecting the words of Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, history’s losers (Sen. Robert Taft opposing war crimes trials after WWII) as well as its victors. And several of the speeches he includes deal with politics only indirectly: such as Louis Pasteur’s paean to scientific education, the Dalai Lama’s sermon on the "Philosophy of Compassion" and Salman Rushdie’s description of a life "Trapped inside a Metaphor." This is an invaluable reference for writers and speakers, students of history and those who simply appreciate great oratory.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal

This new edition of Safire's book, originally published in 1992, retains all the speeches in the first edition and adds 20 new ones, such as Pope Urban II launching the crusades, Bob Dole remembering Richard Nixon, and Colin Powell on racial hatred. Safire's criteria are subjective?a speech is included if he thinks "it's great"?and the tone of his unhelpful introduction is one of strained cuteness. Most collections of speeches focus narrowly on particular subjects such as American or classical speeches, with few attempting, like Safire's, to cover all times and places. In fact, The Guide to Reference Books lists only one: Brewer's ten-volume World's Best Orations, published in 1901. Not surprisingly, there is virtually no overlap between Brewer's 350 and Safire's 220 selections. Safire's book is not really necessary for libraries owning the first edition, but it is a good addition for those lacking Brewer's or in need of modern speeches. With an excellent index.?Peter A. Dollard, Alma Coll. Lib., Mich.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1168 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Updated and Expanded Edition edition (October 17, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393059316
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393059311
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 2.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,207 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Safire began his writing career as a reporter, became a speechwriter in the Nixon White House, and re-crossed the street to write an Op-Ed column in the New York Times for the next three decades. He also wrote the weekly "On Language" column in the New York Times Magazine. He was a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for commentary and the Medal of Freedom.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

79 of 87 people found the following review helpful By Richard La Fianza on September 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Lend Me Your Ears is a collection of speeches, based on topic, from Ancient Greece to Modern America. It is edited by William Safire, an old speech writer for Nixon. Still active in the field, William Safire has some good insight into what makes a great speech and how we can learn from the masters.
In particular, each topic and each speech has an introduction by Mr Safire. In his introduction he explains the background of the speech,why this particular speech is important, and what makes this speech, in his view, so good. For the most part, the book is very well done.
I liked his comments and actually have adopted some of his suggestions for my own speeches. (I am an attorney. I would warn the casual speaker that nothing is worse then read the "best speeches of all time" right before your own presentaton. I made that mistake, once.)
Why not five stars? I thought he could have made some better selections. In particular, he focused heavily on modern America and our politiicans. I am sure, based on his audience, this was/is a smart move. By doing so, however, he deleted some speeches that had more impact, more relevence, and more interest to this reader. Still, this is a minor critic. It is a good book, just not a five star one.
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39 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Martin Asiner on July 3, 2002
Format: Hardcover
William Safire in his LEND ME YOUR EARS does not purport how to tell the novice speaker how to step up to the podium and knock 'em dead with a fluid barrage of words. Instead, his goal is more modest, to figure out why some speeches have reverberated through the acoustic corridors of history while others have fizzled out with nary an echo to record their passing. Surprisingly enough, he acknowledges that a magnificent speaking voice can not turn verbal mush into thrilling oratory. No one knows what Abe Lincoln truly sounded like, but we honor his Gettysburg Address as a sublime example of stirring words. What Safire does is to give the reader a sort of ten commandents that the great speakers of the past must have followed. Ironically, this list is not something that one can examine, nor can compare to what the speaker brings to the podium to exclaim,'Ah ha, this is what I lack!' Among the magical list includes a variation on the old saw, 'Tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em; then tell 'em; then tell 'em what you told 'em.' Safire translates this as a smooth flow that invites a rhythm to the delivery. He adds that this smooth flow must not be the smoothness of uninterrupted rhythm; there ought to be a variation that allows the audience to catch a breath at just the right point. Other necessities include occasion (the speaker is at the right point at the right time); forum (the 'where' the speech is given); focus (what's the purpose or point); theme; word choice.Read more ›
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By P. O'Rourke on January 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Although there's a lot of valuable history in its pages, I bought this book because I wanted to become a better speaker. Nothing in here can help you with the delivery of your own speeches, but reading these wonderful extracts of some of the world's greatest speeches can't help but inspire. I especially appreciated Mr. Safire's ability not only to recognize a great speech, but also to define for the reader the qualities that made the sppech great and to place it within a historical perspective. I'm still not a great speaker, and probably never will be, but at least this book has given me plenty of role models.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Robbie Lewis on January 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is the speaker's cook book. Every great speech since the Sermon on the Mount seems to get a listing, each a beautiful little inspirational recipe for our own fumbling, stuttering, trembling efforts. To cap it all, Safire's editorial contribution is brilliant. He follows his hypnotic introduction with concise and balanaced analysis for each speech. If you are looking for something stirring for the Scout jamboree, something special for cousin Harriet's wedding, or that little extra for Pastor William's Sunday service this is the book for you. I couldn't put the book down. Highly recommended.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Pauline Reynolds on February 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book cannot help but inspire readers and speech writers alike. I've not seen a better collection of speeches that cover the gamut of human emotion and social and political experience. Mr Safire's commentary is insightful and extremely useful for aspiring speech writers, highlighting as it does just what makes each speech 'great'. A must have on my book shelf.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
If there is a better anthology of great speeches, I am not aware of it.

The text from which its title is derived is Mark Antony's speech in Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar, and is included among the hundreds in this volume. Credit Safire with a brilliant job of selecting and then introducing each. He should also be commended on his "An Introductory Address" which offers an exceptionally informative as well as entertaining explanation of eleven "secrets steps" when composing and then presenting a great speech. (i.e. "the meat and potatoes of oratory," "the tricks of the speech trade"). They include the usual suspects such as structure ("shapeliness"), pulse, occasion, "forum" (or venue), focus, etc. Safire adds a few others which, in retrospect, seem obvious but really aren't. For example, the importance of the first step: "Shake hands with your audience...Make the first step a quickstep; get your smile, then get to work." Another: "Cross `em up now and then." Safire suggests that great speeches are meant to be read, not spoken. "What every audience needs is a sense of completion." Therefore, what the speaker needs "is a way out on a high note. That's the necessary ingredient to shapeliness. That calls for peroration [which is] a devastating defense against the dread disease of dribbling off."

It is worth noting that some great speeches had no significant impact when first delivered (e.g. Lincoln's 266-word "Gettysburg Address") and some are delivered only during a dramatic performance (e.g. Antony's funeral oration); however, all great speeches continue to be read and admired long after being written.
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