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These 4 undelivered famous speeches would have changed history

There’s an old joke about hell wherein a speechwriter arrives and finds a room of writers typing miserably on computers while facing a deadline. He begs to go to Heaven instead. When he does, the scene is identical. “This is the same,” he remarks. “Not at all,” replies St. Peter. “Up here, we use the stuff.” 

Jeff Nussbaum, a senior speechwriter for President Biden, surely knows that struggle. His new book, “Undelivered: The Never Heard Speeches That Would Have Rewritten History,” focusing on history’s most memorable undelivered speeches, is a love letter to all the speechwriters and public figures who toiled on addresses that never saw the light of day — at least, until now. Here are 4 of the most memorable speeches cited in the book:

MLK Jr. might be best remembered for his “I have a dream” speech, but there was another version never used.
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Martin Luther King Jr. at The March on Washington

Martin Luther King Jr. might be best remembered for movingly declaring “I have a dream” at the March on Washington in 1963. In that iconic speech, he conveyed a message of hope, saying, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” 

But the original tenor of the speech, titled “Normalcy No More,” was very different. In the version that was never used, MLK stated: 

 “I read a newspaper editorial recently which speculated upon when the leaders of this civil rights movement would become ‘satisfied’ so that America could return to normalcy . . . we do not want to return to normalcy . . . It is normalcy with keeps the filibuster alive — that legislative incinerator in which every smoldering hope for racial justice has been converted into ashes. It is normalcy which has been the betrayal of all that we mean when we recite the Oath of Allegiance . . . Every inspired genius who has given something to the world; every people who have ever struck for freedom has rejected the normal and embraced the abnormal.” 

Eisenhower had also prepared a speech apologizing for the invasion’s failure if needed.
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Eisenhower on D-Day

Eisenhower’s speech to the troops about to embark on the D-Day invasion in 1944 was a rallying testament to his confidence. In it, he exclaimed, “The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory! I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!” 

He got it. But that speech belied his concerns. Before the invasion, he also wrote a speech apologizing for its failure, in which he claimed: 

“My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.”

That speech was one he happily disposed of following the victory. 

Nixon ultimately chose to resign following Watergate, but there was another speech prepped in case he didn’t.
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Nixon’s speech on refusing to resign

In 1973, following the Watergate scandal, Nixon chose to resign — largely to avoid inevitable impeachment. He stated that, in doing so, he hoped to “have hastened the start of that process of healing which is so desperately needed in America.” 

But he had another speech ready if he chose not to resign. This one stated that he was refusing to leave office because, “it would leave a permanent crack in our Constitutional structure: it would establish the principle that under pressure, a President could be removed from office by means short of those provided by the Constitution. By establishing that principle, it would invite such pressures on every future President who might, for whatever reason, fall into a period of unpopularity.” 

Hillary Clinton’s team was hard at work on her victory speech that she never had a chance to read.
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Hillary Clinton’s victory speech

In the run-up to the 2016 election, polls placed Hillary Clinton’s odds of victory as anywhere between 70% and 99%. Her team was hard at work on a victory speech that would never take place. In the intended speech, she addressed her mother, who was sent away from her family on a train at the age of 8 to live with her emotionally abusive grandmother. Clinton claimed:

“I think about my mother every day. Sometimes, I think about her on that train. I wish I could walk down the aisle and find the little wooden seats where she sat, holding tight to her even-younger sister, alone, terrified . . . I dream of going up to her, and sitting down next to her, taking her in my arms and saying look at me, listen to me. You will survive. You will have a good family of your own, and three children. And as hard as it might be to imagine, your daughter will grow up and become the president of the United States.”