20 Last-Gasp Decisions That Completely Altered The Course Of World History

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19. I have a dream

Probably more than any other single American, Martin Luther King can take credit for the successes of the human rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. Indeed, King was recognized for his non-violent campaigning against racism by receiving a Nobel Peace prize in 1964. Grief and disbelief echoed around the world after King’s assassination four years later.

Image: Nesnad

The episode in King’s life that is perhaps the most remembered is the speech he made in 1963, when he addressed the huge crowds who’d joined the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. That was when he used the famous phrase “I have a dream…” several times. But those iconic words weren’t actually in his prepared text. He used them spontaneously, in fact, only deciding to do so as he gave his speech. A momentous last-minute decision indeed.

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Image: George G. Rockwood

18. Saved by a speech

Taking office in 1901, the 26th president of the U.S. Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt was a swashbuckling character. He’d chased and captured bandits, fought in the Spanish-American War of 1898 and taken and given punishment in the boxing ring. But he had a fantastically lucky escape in 1912 from a determined assassination attempt. That year, Roosevelt was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on the political campaign trail.

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