Writing a review of this book takes some courage, for this is a book coauthored by hundreds of remarkable characters throughout the human history.
I first borrowed this book from one of NYU's libraries because I needed to write political speeches for a science fiction. It soon became clear that this is not a book that can be skimmed through in a few days. Not a beach read or a diversion you bring to an airplane. It desires a slot on my bookshelf and is well worth the $35 I spent on Amazon. There are more than 200 speeches presented in 14 categories, ranging from Napoleon's exhortation to his soldiers to Clinton's memorial of Martin Luther King. My favorite is the category of War and Revolution, as "The better work men do is always done under stress and at great personal cost" (William Carlos Williams), although I do learn a lot in any of the other categories, about economy, democracy, religion, etc.
But this is more than a collection. Preceding every speech, the author, William Safire, gives a brief background of the speech and the speaker. For historical events, you may argue that anyone could easily "google" something out, but the intros written by Safire are not mere facts; they are the distillate of abundant knowledge combined with personal insights. I've tried reading some of the speeches without first resorting to Safire's intros. Always ended up clueless. Some of the events awoke my old memories. When I learned those events in high school, they were numbers and names and exam questions. Now reading the actual speech, I become face to face with the speaker, fearing his fear and smiling at his smile. There is no force stronger than the mind of a remarkable human being. And that's how people achieve eternity --- “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about.” (Benjamin Franklin)