Have you no sense of decency?

Mr. Welch: You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?
Senator McCarthy:
I know this hurts you, Mr. Welch.

Mr Welch:
I'll say it hurts!
from The Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954*

I was watching a bit of Angels in America earlier today, heard the above quoted, and got to thinking about speeches - their level of fame, how often they're quoted, and how many can recite the lines, but don't understand the political and social context in which the speech was delivered.

Someone asked for *the famous speech* that President Reagan delivered for Veteran's Day. Huh? When we told her we were able to find two separate transcripts, she told us again that it was a famous speech.

Oh! Okay!!

Actually, a closer look led me to deduce that the second one was simply mislabeled, but still... What constitutes fame in any discipline varies greatly, and is highly subjective. When it comes to historical speeches, I suspect that the level of fame corresponds with the number of times the stock footage is used on CNN or The History Channel. However, I suppose there are some speeches that are so powerful that you remember them, and the social or political context in which they were given. I Have a Dream would be one, I hope.

American Rhetoric
provides transcripts of historical speeches, and provides audio when available. History Matters is another source for primary documents, including audio recordings and transcripts of speeches.

*While reading a little bit about the hearings, I learned that Roy Cohn (portrayed by Al Pacino in Angels in America) was a real person, did prosecute the Rosenbergs, and did defend McCarthy.

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