10 Best Speeches in the 2000s (Part 1)

10 Best Speeches in the 2000s (Part 1)

Use Speeches From the 2000s to Perfect Your Public Speaking

It’s 2004. You’re hyping yourself up for whatever’s got you nervous, belting out the iconic lines, “His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy “ while Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” thumps away. The times may have changed, but those feelings of nervousness never quite do, especially when you’re about to step in front of a crowd; tasked with commanding the room. 

Not having the urge to toss up “mom’s spaghetti,” every time you give a speech comes from practice. Observation is important too so we asked a panel of SNP public speaking experts to review the best speeches from the 2000s to highlight what went well and what could have been better.

Barack Obama, The Audacity Of Hope, 2004

Barack Obama, then Illinois state senate member, soon to be U.S. Senator, and eventually President, put himself on the political map with this keynote address calling for national unity and support of John Kerry during the 2004 Democratic National Convention. 

Here’s what our SNPers had to say –

What went well:

  • Powerful opening and closing! Chills from the start.
  • Tells us who he is and why he’s there right away.
  • Great energy, tone, volume, pauses…everything! So passionate.
  • Allows silence for when the audience cheers and applauds.

Even better if: 

  • Tightened up his eye contact instead of moving it around the room.
  • Stood still instead of creating distractions by shifting too much.

Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Address, 2005

The late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple and so much more, needs little introduction. During this commencement address to Stanford’s 2005 graduating class, Jobs takes the audience through the journey of his life, from adoption to cancer diagnosis, to give perspective on how to “stay hungry and stay foolish.”

Our SNPers thought…

What went well:

  • Great hook. Ironic introduction – speaking to college graduates never having graduated college himself.
  • Clear structure in the form of 3 stories.
  • Good volume throughout – helps with his inflection and overall energy.
  • Great pauses – gives the audience time to digest key points.

Even Better If:

  • Stayed steady – shifting weight back and forth between legs constantly (it gets distracting!)
  • Memorized his speech instead of reading from notes so he could focus on delivery. 
  • Added gestures / intentional movement to aid storytelling. 
  • Stopped nervous tick: the beard check (hand on chin feeling beard).

Sir Ken Robinson, Do Schools Kill Creativity? 2007

Knighted in 2003 for his work, Sir Ken Robinson had a long career focused on bringing arts and creativity into schools and workplaces. In this speech, one of the most viewed TedTalks of all time, he illuminates how we educate our children and calls for its reimagination through valuing creativity. 

What Went Well: 

  • Intentional, rehearsed, and authentic humor – not an outlet for nervous energy or a self-serving laugh grab.
  • Steady and solid stance that keeps you focused on him.
  • Stated his thesis up front. Re-stated it at the end. Made his point really clear.
  • Intentional arc in the speech’s story. 

Even Better If: 

  • More intentional eye contact to enhance points.
  • Had a stronger close which could be done by increasing energy, including repetition to remind the audience of keypoints, or adding a tangible call-to-action. 

Oprah Winfrey, Stanford Address, 2008

Talk about star power! Well-versed in public speaking, Oprah Winfrey – talk show host, television producer, actress, author and philanthropist – delivers an impactful commencement address with the lessons from obstacles in her life: to live doing the work that feels right, is meaningful, and is in service. 

What went well: 

  • Engaging vocal variety that sets a scene. 
  • Gets the audience involved with a call and response, saying the graduating class year. 
  • The structure of 3 sections makes it easy to follow. Gifts to the audience are a plus – who doesn’t love free stuff?

Even Better If: 

  • Tighten up the intro by shortening the story with her goddaughter, not related to her message. 
  • Memorized her speech so she didn’t have to look at her notes and could have uninterrupted delivery. 

Barack Obama, Inaugural Speech 2008

Four short years after his keynote address at the DNC in 2004, Barack Obama took to the inaugural stage as President of the United States. He has multiple of the best speeches in the 2000s for a reason. In this speech, he set the tone for his presidency, promising to meet America’s current crises for the better of every American.

What went well:

  • Hits his soaring oratory stride at about 3 minutes into the speech, and doesn’t let up. 
  • He uses a lot of dichotomies (“unity, not division”) to instill hope, but it doesn’t sound forced or canned – hard to do. 
  • Energy of the crowd – it was exciting!

Even better If:

  • Maintained eye contact instead of playing teleprompter ping pong.
  • Some things you just can’t control – it was freezing!

Now that you’ve gotten a snapshot of the good and the could be better of some of the best speeches from the 2000’s, let’s highlight best practices. We learned that content should always be clear and engaging, energy is created with good volume, steady eye contact, and intentional gestures, and finally, that authentic speeches are the most memorable so include a personal story or thoughtful joke (but only if you’re funny!).

With insight on how to give an impactful speech from these 2000s greats, we hope you can hone your story and tell it memorably. Maybe leave the frosted tips, studded belts, and other 2000s style trends at home though. 

We promised you 10 and we’ve given you five. Head to part 2 of the 10 Best Speeches in the 2000s for the rest!


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