Resources › For Educators 10 Great American Speeches for the 7-12 Classroom Readability and Rhetoric Ratings of Literary and Informational Texts Share Flipboard Email Print Image Source / Getty Images For Educators Secondary Education Lesson Plans Grading Students for Assessment Becoming A Teacher Assessments & Tests Elementary Education Special Education Teaching Homeschooling By Colette Bennett Education Expert M.A., English, Western Connecticut State University B.S., Education, Southern Connecticut State University Colette Bennett is a certified literacy specialist and curriculum coordinator with more than 20 years of classroom experience. our editorial process Colette Bennett Updated March 06, 2017 Speeches can inspire students. Teachers in every subject area can use the texts of inspirational speeches to increase their students' background knowledge about a variety of topics. Speeches also address the Common Core Literacy Standards for Science, History, Social Studies, and Technical Subject Areas as well as the Standards for English Language Arts. They also guide teachers to ensure that their students understand word meanings, appreciate the nuances of words, and steadily expand their range of vocabulary and phrases. Here are 10 great American speeches that helped define America during its first two centuries with a link to word count, readability level, and an example of a prominent rhetorical device that is contained within each text. 01 of 10 The Gettysburg Address traveler1116 / Getty Images Abraham Lincoln gave this speech, which began with the famous line, "Fourscore and seven years ago . . .," at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery near the battlefield in Gettysburg. The address occurred four and a half months after the Battle of Gettysburg. Delivered by: Abraham LincolnDate: November 19, 1863Location: Gettysburg, PennsylvaniaWord Count: 269 wordsReadability score: Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease 64.4Grade Level: 10.9Rhetorical device used: Anaphora: Repetition of words at the start of clauses or verses. "But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground." 02 of 10 Abraham Lincoln's 2nd Inaugural Address Alexander Gardner / Stringer / Getty Images The dome of the United States Capitol was unfinished when Lincoln delivered this Inaugural Address beginning his second term. It is notable for its theological argument. The following month, Lincoln was assassinated. Delivered by: Abraham LincolnDate: March 4, 1865Location: Washington, D.C.Word Count: 706 wordsReadability score: Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease 58.1Grade Level: 12.1Rhetorical device used: Allusion: A brief and indirect reference to a person, place, thing, or idea of historical, cultural, literary, or political significance. "It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged." 03 of 10 Keynote Address at the Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention PhotoQuest / Getty Images The Seneca Falls Convention was the first women's rights convention organized to "discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman." Delivered by: Elizabeth Cady StantonDate: July 19, 1848Location: Seneca Falls, New YorkWord Count: 1427 wordsReadability score: Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease 64.4Grade Level: 12.3Rhetorical device used: Asyndeton ("unconnected" in Greek): A stylistic device used in literature to intentionally eliminate conjunctions between the phrases and in the sentence, yet maintain grammatical accuracy. "The right is ours. Have it we must. Use it we will." 04 of 10 George Washington's Response to the Newburgh Conspiracy Print Collector / Contributor / Getty Images When the officers of the Continental Army threatened to march on the Capitol to demand back pay, George Washington stopped them with this short speech. At the conclusion, he took out his glasses and said, “Gentlemen, you must pardon me. I have grown old in the service of my country and now find that I am growing blind.” Within minutes, the officers-eyes filled with tears-voted unanimously to express confidence in Congress and their country. Delivered by: General George WashingtonDate: March 15, 1783Location: Newburgh, New YorkWord Count: 1,134 wordsReadability score: Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease 32.6Grade Level: 13.5Rhetorical device used: Rhetorical Questions: Asked for effect or to lay emphasis on some point discussed when no real answer is expected. "My God! what can this writer have in view, by recommending such measures? Can he be a friend to the Army? Can he be a friend to this Country? Rather, is he not an insidious Foe?" 05 of 10 Patrick Henry 'Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death' benoitb / Getty Images Patrick Henry's speech was an attempt to persuade the Virginia House of Burgesses, meeting at St. John's Church in Richmond, to pass resolutions favoring Virginia joining the American Revolutionary War. Delivered by: Patrick HenryDate: March 23, 1775Location:Richmond, VirginiaWord Count: 1215 wordsReadability score: Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease 74Grade Level: 8.1Rhetorical device used: Hypophora: Asking a question and immediately answering it. "Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other." 06 of 10 Sojourner Truth 'Ain't I A Woman?' National Archives / Getty Images This speech was delivered extemporaneously by Sojourner Truth, who was enslaved from the time of her birth in New York State. She spoke at the Women's Convention in Akron, Ohio, 1851. Frances Gage, the president of the convention, recorded the speech 12 years later. Delivered by: Sojourner TruthDate: May 1851Location: Akron, OhioWord Count: 383 wordsReadability score: Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease 89.4Grade Level: 4.7Rhetorical device used: Metaphor: To make an implicit, implied, or hidden comparison between two things or objects that are poles apart from each other but have some characteristics common between them. Metaphor of pints and quarts to discuss the rights held by Black women in comparison to others. "If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?" 07 of 10 Fredrick Douglass 'The Church and Prejudice' Photos.com / Getty Images Douglass was enslaved from the time of his birth on a Maryland plantation, but in 1838, at age 20, he self-liberated in New York. This lecture was one of his first major anti-enslavement oratories. Delivered by: Fredrick DouglassDate: November 4, 1841Location: Plymouth County Anti-Slavery Society in Massachusetts.Word Count: 1086Readability score: Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease 74.1Grade Level: 8.7Rhetorical device used: Anecdote: A short and interesting story or an amusing event often proposed to support or demonstrate some point and make readers and listeners laugh. Douglass tells the story of a young lady recovered from a trance: "...she declared she had been to heaven. Her friends were all anxious to know what and whom she had seen there; so she told the whole story. But there was one good old lady whose curiosity went beyond that of all the others—and she inquired of the girl that had the vision, if she saw any black folks in heaven? After some hesitation, the reply was, 'Oh! I didn't go into the kitchen!'" 08 of 10 Chief Joseph 'I Will Fight No More Forever' Buyenlarge / Getty Images Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, pursued 1500 miles through Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana by the U.S. Army, spoke these words when he finally surrendered. This speech followed the final engagement of the Nez Perce War. The transcript of the speech was taken by Lieutenant C.E.S. Wood. Delivered by: Chief JosephDate: October 5th, 1877Location: Bears Paw (Battle of the Bears Paw Mountains), MontanaWord Count: 156 wordsReadability score: Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease 104.1Grade Level: 2.9Rhetorical device used: Direct Address: The use of a term or name for the person spoken to, as in securing the attention of that person; use of a vocative form. "Hear me, my Chiefs!" 09 of 10 Susan B. Anthony and Women's Right to Vote Underwood Archives / Getty Images Susan B. Anthony gave this speech on multiple occasions after her arrest for casting an illegal vote in the presidential election of 1872. She was tried and then fined $100 but refused to pay. Delivered by: Susan B. AnthonyDate: 1872 - 1873Location: Stump Speech delivered in all 29 postal districts of Monroe County, New YorkWord Count: 451 wordsReadability score: Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease 45.1Grade Level: 12.9Rhetorical device used: Parallelism: The use of components in a sentence that are grammatically the same; or similar in their construction, sound, meaning or meter. "It is an odious aristocracy; a hateful oligarchy of sex; the most hateful aristocracy ever established on the face of the globe; an oligarchy of wealth, where the right govern the poor. An oligarchy of learning, where the educated govern the ignorant, or even an oligarchy of race, where the Saxon rules the African, might be endured; but this oligarchy of sex, which makes father, brothers, husband, sons, the oligarchs over the mother and sisters, the wife and daughters of every household..." 10 of 10 'Cross of Gold' Speech Buyenlarge / Getty Images This "Cross of Gold" speech thrust William Jennings Bryan into the national spotlight where his dramatic speaking style and rhetoric roused the crowd to a frenzy. Reports from those in the audience noted that at the conclusion of the speech, he thrust his arms wide, a visual representation of the speech's last line. The next day the convention nominated Bryan for President on the fifth ballot. Delivered by: William Jennings BryanDate: July 9, 1896Location: Democratic National Convention in ChicagoWord Count: 3242 wordsReadability score: Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease 63Grade Level: 10.4Rhetorical device used: Analogy: A comparison in which an idea or a thing is compared to another thing that is quite different from it. Gold standard to a "crown of thorns" to "crucify mankind." "....we shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold." National Archives for Education The National Archives for Education offers thousands of primary source documents—including speeches—which can be used as teaching tools to bring history to life.