“Extras” on your Reading List — Check out William Safire’s Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History

William Safire's compilation of great speeches
William Safire's compilation of great speeches

I am currently tackling Free by Chris Anderson for the next First Friday Book Synopsis.  And I am making presentations on books related to non-profits for two conferences this month.  But I still try to read a little that is not on my “assignments” list.  I hope you do the same.

Here’s my latest find.  It is a big, thick, terrific compilation of great speeches.  The compiler is William Safire, now retired columnist for the New York Times.  (He was the Pulitzer prize winning, conservative columnist for the Times).  The book’s title is wonderful:  “Lend Me Your Ears:  Great Speeches in History” – selected and introduced by William Safire.  His introductions to each speech add greatly to your understanding.    The selection is comprehensive, diverse, and covers speeches for all time.  (He starts with Pericles).

A speech is a perfect “short read.”  You can read one in one short sitting, and a good speech can really get you to thinking.

I most recently read “The Easy Way,” by Walter Lippman.  The speech was delivered in 1940, at the thirtieth reunion of the graduating class from Harvard.  Think of the context:  the aftermath of World War I had not gone well, and dark clouds were clearly looming.  The entire speech is utterly quotable, and it sounds as though it could have been given this week. (And there are clearly implications for business in this speech).  Consider these few excerpts:

• For it is doubt and uncertainty of purpose and confusion of values which unnerves men.
• For every good that you wish to preserve, you will have to sacrifice your comforts and your ease.  There is nothing for nothing any longer.
• It was hard to make a good and magnanimous peace.  It was easier to make a bad and unworkable peace.  We took the easiest way…  It was too hard to, it was too much trouble to keep on trying.  We gave up.  We took the easy way, the way that required us to do nothing.
• So we are where we are today.  We are where we are because whenever we had a choice  to make, we have chosen the alternative that required the least effort at the moment.
• I like to think – in fact, I intend to go away from here thinking – that having remembered the past we shall not falter, having seen one another again, we shall not flinch.

The book is filled with great speeches.  I commend it to you as a “free-time, non-assignment” reading pleasure.


I bought it used from Amazon.com for not much.  It was worth the price.

(Current best price — $6.00 plus shipping.  Here is the Amazon link).

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