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Our commemorative speech examples show how a speech can commemorative a person or an event. They also demonstrate our research and our style of writing. Whether you are a teacher, a student or a public speaker we have speeches in our range to meet your particular needs. We have speeches commemorating historical events and famous people and some will introduce an audience to facts or people they do not already know.
Our commemorative speeches are complete in themselves but we also enclose a poem at the end of each speech which will certainly surprise your audience and make your speech stand out.

 

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Commemorative Speech: The Alamo

Summary

This commemorative speech explains to an audience the history of, and the reason we use the expression, "Remember the Alamo." It may be given by any speaker either to students or to a general audience. It could also be used by a member of a group such as Toastmasters.

Sample

There are moments in time of incredible bravery and heroism. There are moments in history when a few brave men and women stand up to be counted. Here they draw the line and say they will stand and fight. Their stand may be small in comparison to the great battles in which thousands perish. Yet perhaps they achieve even more through their spirit, courage and determination. When principles hold fast against huge and overwhelming odds no matter what the outcome, victory is theirs. The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas on the 6th March 1836, was one such moment in time.

The battle of the Alamo was a desperate fight that probably only lasted a few short hours at the most. Every moment must have seemed a lifetime for those inside the beleaguered fort. Here, less than two hundred men and women held out against overwhelming odds and firepower for as long as they could. In the end every fighting man was killed. Their bravery and heroism has endured to this day.

Perhaps they believed, at first, that help would come. Most likely those who fell, knew in those final hours that they would die. Among them were novices, soldiers and volunteers. Side by side heroes and characters from the great frontiers prepared to make their defence. Among them were Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett, the 'king of the wild frontier' and a former congressman for Tennessee. They were commanded by Colonel William B. Travis, a career soldier of only 26 years of age. None of them would survive the battle of those last desperate hours. Their sacrifice, bravery and heroism would be remembered forever. Here in their last few hours, were the actions by which history would judge them. Yet those few could hardly have known the importance of what they were about to do. Nor would they ever know the victory that would one day be theirs.

The history of Texas is as big and dramatic as the state itself. It is impossible to think of the United States today without thinking of Texas as an integral part of it. Yet before the battle of the Alamo, Texas had been a bitterly fought over territory. On an epic scale it had been subject to Spanish occupation and then Mexican Independence. In its mountains the fierce and feared Comanche Indians raided and killed settlers with impunity and cruelty.

The Alamo itself was originally a Spanish mission named Mission San Antonio de Valero. For 70 years it had been home to missionaries and Indian converts. In 1821 Mexico achieved independence from Spain, establishing a republic. Within a few years the government issued an invitation to US citizens through generous land grants, to encourage the settling of the territory. They also hoped the settlers would put a buffer zone between themselves and the troublesome Comanche.

Settlers poured in in their thousands, while a desperately poor and unstable fledgling Mexican democracy in its infancy tried to cope. Behind the scenes was a cruel military despot, who despised the influx of settlers and sought to establish a dictatorship. His name was General Santa Anna. With US immigration out of control, the Mexican government tried to put an end to it and to clamp down. An impatient Santa Anna seized control in 1833 advocating the removal of all foreigners. The settlers had ideas of their own. They rose against their Mexican rulers in San Antonio. At the siege of Bexar, only a few hundred metres from the Alamo in December 1835, a Texan Militia drove the Mexican commander and his forces out of San Antonio. The Mexican forces had been humiliated. Santa Anna was furious.

Santa Anna swore revenge. Militarily, the Alamo, now an extended fort like settlement of some three acres, was of little importance. Objectively the Mexican General could have by passed it with ease, ignoring the Texan rebels. However with zeal and great effort he drove his forces as harshly and as quickly as he could towards San Antonio. He desperately wanted to avenge the humiliation of Bexar.

Every rational reason points to the fact the Alamo in itself was not worth defending. Yet some strange force seems to dictate that a stand here was inevitable. Before the republic of Texas was even declared, the compound was filling up with a mixed crew of soldiers and settlers. There were not even two hundred, with women and children among them. Jim Bowie had even been sent to organise a withdrawal. The valuable cannon, however, could not be moved. So they set about reinforcing the fortifications. The volunteers and the soldiers, under the commands of Bowie and Travis respectively, prepared for a showdown. The speed and arrival of Santa Anna and his forces seems to have surprised the occupants. Thousands of Mexican troops poured into San Antonio as the rebels and their families and even servants, barricaded themselves into the Alamo's compound.

For 13 days from the 23 February Santa Anna and his forces surrounded and besieged the tiny compound. We can only surmise what the thoughts and prayers of those inside were as they were bombarded. We do know that Travis was able to get word out through couriers. They braved the Mexican lines to get pleas for help out to any possible source. One of his famous letters, survives the siege. His words should be in the heart of every American.

"The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise the garrison are to be put to the sword if the fort is taken. I have answered the demand with a cannon shot and our flag still waves proudly from the walls. I shall never surrender nor retreat."

After two weeks of refusing to surrender, the numbers inside the fort had swelled slightly to nearly two hundred. Two and half thousand Mexican troops awaited Santa Anna's orders. Before the final battle, Travis had reputedly drawn a line in the dirt. He asked any man who was willing to stay and fight, to step over it. All but one did. Before day break on the 6th March, the first of three assaults began. The first two were repelled, but the third was too much for the exhausted Texans. They bravely fought to the last man as the overwhelming forces swept into the compound.

Fighting was vicious and hand to hand. More than a thousand Mexicans perished and every fighting man inside the fort was slain. Bowie himself reputedly fired his pistols from his sick bed before he was bayoneted. Santa Anna showed little mercy in his victory. As a final insult to the 'Tejano' defenders and Texan rebels, he piled up their mutilated bodies and burned them on a pyre.

To this day the Alamo and those who died fighting have become enshrined in history. Their names are synonymous with true heroes who made the ultimate stand and sacrifice. Their courage and fortitude paved the way for a Texas that stood tall, proud and independent. Santa Anna himself was defeated with his forces in the Battle of San Jaento on April 21 1836. The sacrifice of the Alamo's heroes ultimately added a million square miles of territory to the American Nation. Their stance against tyranny and their bravery will never be forgotten.

The Alamo
They stood and fought so bravely
For what they believed
And when they were beaten
A nation truly grieved
There were men like Davy Crockett
And Jim Bowie too of course
William B Travis was commander
Of this outnumbered force.
Santa Anna was ruthless and cruel
He thought each settler was a fool
In fact he thought that they were barmy
To take on his huge and mighty army
But their example led others to beat the foe
Texans proudly remember the Alamo.

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Commemorative Speech: Mark Rothko

Summary

This commemorative speech commemorates the life and works of famous artist Mark Rothko. It may be given by any speaker either to students or to a general audience. It could also be used by a member of a group such as Toastmasters.

Sample

To be in the presence of a Rothko painting is to do far more than stand and admire a picture. It is to have an experience. The results of that experience depend upon the individual. They range from the profound and moving perhaps even to the bemused. Rothko's masterpieces are that. Classified as, Abstract Expressionism, the paintings that he produced in the last twenty years of his life are some of the most remarkable and identifiable images of the twentieth century. There is no ambiguity about Mark Rothko's genius, nor his intensity and his desire to create something intense and emotional. He was, to the end of his life, uncompromising and brave in his belief and search for expression.

Mark Rothko's career as a painter spans five decades. His life began in Russian Latvia and he came as an immigrant to America. His heritage and life fuses European traditions and European and American modernism. His work stands as some of the most powerful but uneasy pictures ever committed to canvas. In the end illness, depression and eventually suicide brought his life to a close.

His work endures as a magnificent testament to a supreme artist who created a new and impassioned form of abstract painting. Yet Rothko would have hoped it was more than that. He might have hoped that those who came to see his work in the right setting might have an encounter akin to a religious experience.

There's no denying that his work is extraordinarily powerful. It resonates with an energy, either uplifting or brooding. It does not leave you alone. In front of Rothko, you are forced to confront yourself. You are drawn into an experience. You feel dwarfed by the presence of something you cannot quite explain or comprehend. Many people witnessing his work report feelings that are emotional and tearful. No reproduction or photograph of his work can possibly do the original justice. To feel the power of his work you have to be there in front of it.

What is certain is that Rothko was one of the pre-eminent artists of his generation. His influences were many and his influence extends to composers and musicians as well as to painters. There seems to be something about his best work that defies words. Perhaps that is why titles and names for his work became redundant to him. The artist himself chose to use numbers to identify works. There were many attempts to commission Rothko to produce work to hang in public spaces. There were not all successful. Perhaps the most famous is the Rothko Chapel in Huston. This experiment was years in the making and preparation. The obsessive effort involved might even have contributed to Rothko's depression and his death.

Yet there is something about Rothko's work that begs to be hung in public spaces. Rothko himself would not have wanted those spaces to be art museums. There is something spiritual about the experience we have confronting his work. Yet attempts to describe the work often fails. Rothko himself found words inadequate preferring eventually to let the paintings exist in silence. He tired of trying to explain what he saw as a fundamentally emotional and non-verbal experience. Critics and the public alike disagree to this day, how far he succeeded in his quest to represent this.

Rothko was uncompromising. Commissioned to provide work for a restaurant on Park Avenue, he produced forty paintings over three months. He then decided to abandon the project, unhappy that his work should hang in a restaurant. Much of that work now resides in museums in the US, London and Japan.

The work he produced was unique, powerful and individual. A Rothko painting is an iconic image. The canvasses he chose to work on were by most standards huge. This is not art for the small room or the fainthearted. A vast Rothko canvas might typically comprise of floating rectangles of colour. They work with and against each other. They range from light and energising yellows and reds towards much deeper and far more sombre hues. Whatever their variation, they never cease to convey a deep feeling of sensuality. If you close your eyes or turn your back on a Rothko, you can feel its presence hovering and burning behind you. His work shimmers with power and intensity. The paintings are hypnotic and powerful.

Perhaps the clues to such extraordinary work and output come partly from the characters Rothko grew up with and the circles he mixed in. His family of Russian Jewish extraction found themselves outcasts in their own country. Immigrating to the US, the Rothkowitz's arrived at Ellis Island in the winter of 1913. By 1914, Marcus Rothkowitz's father was dead. Yet Marcus, who would change his name to Mark before WWII, was a bright and eager student. With four languages at his disposal and as many cultural influences, he graduated from High School at seventeen years of age. He won a scholarship to Yale, although he dropped out citing the Yale community as too elitist and racist for his taste. It was not until 1923 that he witnessed, by accident, his first art class and began his life as an artist.

The Rothko that would find fame and fortune after WWII was still a long way off. Enrolled in the New School of Design, Rothkowitz's tutors included GORKY and MAX WEBER. New York at the time was a hotbed atmosphere revelling in modernism. The galleries showed modernist paintings and the museums were to prove an invaluable resource for a budding artist. Rothko had his own showing in 1928 and a year later he was teaching classes in sculpture and painting.

Rothko was a great thinker and debater. He wrote, although never completed a book, on his theories linking modernism with primitive and children's intuitive art. His work developed and he began to incorporate classical myths and symbolism.

In common with many, Rothko read and was influenced by Freud, Jung, and the concept of the collective unconscious. The rise of Nazism forced the immigration to the US of many celebrated and avant-garde artists, Miro, Dali, Ernst and Breton among them. Symbolism and modern art had taken New York by storm. As heady and exciting as all this was, Rothko was still searching for a fresher mode of expression. He broke away from symbolism into what have been called, 'multi form' paintings. In these, his use of bright abstract colour emerged. They were unique, in that they seemed to possess a life and energy of their own. Yet at the same time, they were blurred blocks of colour without recognisable form. There were not landscapes as such, nor human figures, or symbols.

In this work and the extraordinary work that was to follow, it seemed as if Rothko had abandoned traditional artistic aims altogether. His work seemed more to do with a spiritual quest than a representation or interpretation of an object. As he developed his ideas through these forms and experience, it occurred to Rothko that even specific titles for his work were too restrictive. As Rothko struggled with his vision and expression, his personal life suffered. He fought depression, alcoholism and after a second marriage break up and then his mother's death, he retreated into seclusion. The resulting work was to be extraordinary.

For seven years, he painted in oils on vast canvasses. These have the effect of immersing the viewer, providing a feeling of intimacy and awe. During the 1950's Rothko travelled widely still seeking out art and revelling in the Italian frescoes. Conversely, as fame and fortune found him, so he began to doubt his work was being appreciated for the right reasons. Former friends, perhaps jealous of his commercial success, accused him of betrayal and of selling out. Buying a Rothko, it seemed, was a prudent and sound financial investment for an art collector.

Frustration trying to verbalise or explain his art caused him to further shy away from discussing his work. That same work seemed to express real human emotions, from tragedy to ecstasy. Critics see Rothko's move towards dark and brooding colours as symptomatic of his depression. As his retrospective is held in the Museum of Modern Art, Pop Art is already the next 'big thing.' Rothko is scathing in his opinion of those who have not paid their dues and calls the movement, the tragedy of art as a commodity.

Perhaps the commissioning of what became the Rothko chapel, was the fitting place for this genius' work to be experienced. To Rothko's delight, it would be far from the hub of fashionable New York. The distance meant that people who wanted the experience would have to be prepared to make the journey. It would be a journey not unlike a religious pilgrimage.

The fourteen pieces of work that hang there took Rothko six years to produce. They are, by all accounts, an awesome experience to view, and according to some the zenith of darkness and unpredictability. Rothko never saw the culmination of his life's work completed. His depression and suicide in 1970 ended a life that was intense and at times painful and traumatic. The work he left behind is no less powerful. They are, perhaps, some of the most resonant paintings ever committed to canvas by an artist.

 

Mark Rothko 1903 - 1971
Rothko had his own vision
He looked at the world through eyes
That did not see things as others did
So each work was different, a surprise.
Not for him the safe and ordinary
Not for him what other artists did
His canvasses were huge, extraordinary
With his paintings he lifted the lid
On his beliefs and his genius
As he painted, not for him the fuss
Of commercialism but rather he stood apart
Interested only in what he saw, his art
Is a treasure that he has left behind
A message to be interpreted by mankind.

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