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Retro, according to Wikipedia, is “a term used to describe aspects of modern culture which are consciously derivative of those trends, modes, fashions or attitudes of the recent past which have or had come to be seen as unfashionable”.

Nothing, then, is more retro than a speech. Youtube has brought some of the most significant speeches in world history back into the public eye. We choose five of the best from the recent past, all of which have never seemed more relevant today.

Thabo Mbeki – ‘I am an African’

Thabo Mbeki has his dodgy moments like all Heads of State. He might not whip up a frenzy like the Americans, but here, addressing parliament, his slow, measured speech on what it is to be an African is as stirring as anything. Excuse the cheesy strings slash woodwind accompaniment and the fuzzy scenic montage and this will tug at even the most cynical heartstrings.

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Martin Luther King Jr – ‘I Have a Dream’

It is perhaps the most famous speech of all time. From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. King spoke to thousands of people gathered for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, taking inspiration from the Declaration of Independence signed, as he put it then, “five score years ago”. Within a year of giving this speech, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, making him the youngest ever recipient. He was assassinated four years later.

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Barack Obama – ‘Yes We Can’

It is premature to call US Presidential candidate Barack Obama a great leader; he hasn’t done any leading yet. But whether or not his increasingly likely bid to replace George ‘Dubya’ Bush at the helm is successful, Obama will have established himself as one of the world’s leading political orators. Here, in a rousing speech that recalls Luther King, Obama addresses his supporters after the Hampshire primaries, which he narrowly lost to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

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Harold Pinter – ‘Art, Truth & Politics’

Playwright Harold Pinter was an unlikely yet widely celebrated choice as last year’s winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. He used his acceptance speech to deliver one of the most articulate and scathing denouncements of US foreign policy. In it, he audaciously (and with tongue firmly in cheek) volunteers for the job of President Bush’s speechwriter, but it is his sober and damning appraisal of the American government’s history of violence that strikes the heaviest blows. The full video is close of 45 minutes long, so get comfortable.

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Bill Clinton – ‘Apology’

Taking the fifth and final spot and, completely unjustly, elbowing out JFK’s ‘Ask Not…’ and Churchill’s ‘We Will Fight Them on The Beaches…’ is a speech that didn’t so much inspire as it did offer closure to the people. Bill Clinton took a long time to admit that he did, in fact, have “sexual relations with that woman”, but when he finally faced the music he summoned all the grace he could muster. The world watched with baited breath and now, as then, the speech makes riveting viewing.

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