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By Charles Bowen

OCTOBER 21, 2003

Research Famous Speeches Online Has Text, Audio

The Net has been a little slow at picking up on what should be a natural for this ever-hungry data fiend: preserving the spoken words of famous global citizens. In the early days of cyberspace, I envisaged a Web that would make transcripts of speeches available within minutes -- or at least within hours -- of their delivery. The Internet would put these transcripts on the table, ready for analysis by journalists and scholars, I thought. With the latest improvements in speech-recognition technology, I expected to see my vision realized at any minute.

I'm still waiting. Sure, transcription services have rolled out from time to time, but none has had the global, journalistic approach I've been hoping for. Still, there continue to be hopeful signs. The latest is the intriguing database -- a truly comprehensive database of more than 5,000 speeches in a variety of formats, along with other recorded media events. Links are arranged alphabetically by first name and are checked for errors at least once every two weeks.

Developed and maintained by Michael E. Eidenmuller, an assistant professor of communications at the University of Texas, the site also features special reports. One section is devoted to "the rhetoric of 9/11," with more than 150 links to speeches dealing with the events on and around that date. Included is a 1998 interview with Osama bin Laden and President Bush's address on the day of the attack.

Visit, where the home page's left column links to the "Online Speech Bank." Scroll this page to examine the latest featured speeches and related material. You also can use your Internet browser's search option (located under the menu bar's "Edit" option in most browsers) to find specific subjects and speakers.

The database is marked with a color-coded legend to denote the availability of full-text, audio (usually in RealAudio format), active links and so on. Scanning the material, I found some amazing tidbits, such as audio of such historic moments as Babe Ruth's farewell to baseball, an address by Calvin Coolidge, Douglas MacArthur speaking on duty and country, and William Faulkner accepting the Nobel Prize.

Other considerations for using AmericanRhetoric in your writing and editing:

1. Still in development is a cool new site feature called "Movie Speeches." It's a small but growing database.

2. The site's "Top 100 U.S. Speeches," also reached from the home page, indexes American political speeches of the 20th century, ranked by 137 leading scholars of American public address.

3. If you write about the site in your news columns, be sure to mention the "Rhetorical Figures in Sound" section, which links to more than 200 short audio clips from well-known speeches, movies, sermons, songs, and history-making media events.
You can read the last 20 "Reporter's Digital How-to" columns on our index page. Subscribers may access previous columns from our archives.

Charles Bowen ( writes columns, articles, and books from West Virginia, and is host of the daily Internet News syndicated radio show at His Web site is

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