Great Speeches: “Tribute to Dogs”

George Graham Vest  served as U.S. Senator from Missouri from 1879 to 1903 and became one of the leading orators and debaters of his time. This captivating little speech is from an earlier period in his life when he was a lawyer in Missouri. It was given in court while representing a man who sued another for the killing of his dog, Old Drum.  During the trial, Vest ignored the testimony, and when his turn came to present a summation to the jury, he made the following speech and won the case.

Gentlemen of the Jury: The best friend a man has in the world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name may become traitors to their faith. The money that a man has, he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it most. A man’s reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honour when success is with us, may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads.

The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog. A man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer. He will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings, and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.

If fortune drives the master forth, an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him, to guard him against danger, to fight against his enemies. And when the last scene of all comes, and death takes his master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by the graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad, but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even in death. – George Graham Vest

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Great Speeches: “We will fight on the beaches”

Given to the House of Commons  on 4 June 1940,   this was Churchill’s second of three speeches given during the time of the Battle of France.  In this speech, Churchill warned the people of an attempt at invasion by Nazi Germany, while reassuring the public that a victory would occur in the future. He encouraged them to “fight on the beaches,” and anywhere necessary – to “never surrender.”

When Napoleon lay at Boulogne for a year with his flat-bottomed boats and his Grand Army, he was told by someone there are bitter weeds in England. There certainly are a great many more since the British expeditionary force returned. Sir, I have myself full confidence that if all do their duty and if nothing is neglected and if the best arrangements are made, and they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once more able to defend our island home, ride out the storm of war and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary, for years, if necessary, alone.  At any rate, that is what we are going to try to do. That is the resolve of His Majesty’s Government, every man of them. That is the will of Parliament and the nation. The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength.

We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be.  We shall fight on beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender and if, which I do not for the moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, will carry on the struggle until in God’s good time the New World with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and liberation of the Old.  – Winston Churchill