“We Shall Overcome” Speech Summary, Text, & Analysis

February 20, 2023

3 min read

LBJ's "We Shall Overcome" speech was a powerful call to action for Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act, contributing to the advancement of civil rights and racial justice in the United States. Check out our “We Shall Overcome" speech summary, text, and analysis.

In the midst of the civil rights movement in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson delivered a historic address to a joint session of Congress on voting rights. Known as the “We Shall Overcome” speech, it was a push for Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act. Below is the iconic “We Shall Overcome” Speech Summary, Text, & Analysis.

“We Shall Overcome” Speech Summary

We ran LBJ’s speech through Yoodli, the free AI powered speech coaching platform. You can get started at www.yoodli.ai and view results for LBJ here. Here’s a summary of his speech:

  • LBJ urges “all Americans of all religions, and of all colors from every section” to join them in standing for dignity and democracy.
  • He references events such as Lexington and Concord, Appomattox, and Selma, Alabama as times when history and faith came together in a shared cause.
  • LBJ acknowledges there is “no cause for pride or self-satisfaction” in the long denial of equal rights of African Americans.
  • He emphasizes the challenges of the current issue confronting the nation of providing equal rights to African Americans is a test of the underlying values and purpose of America itself.
  • LBJ states that, if America fails to address this issue, it will have failed as a people and as a nation.

We Shall Overcome” Speech Text

The Yoodli AI-powered speech coach provides this “We Shall Overcome ” speech text:

"Speaker, Mr. President, members of the Congress. I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy. I urge every member of both parties, Americans, of all religions, and of all colors from every section of this country to join me in that cause. At times, history and faith meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord.

So it was a century ago at Appomattox, so it was last week in Selma, Alabama. There long suffering men and women peacefully protested the denial of their rights as Americans. Many were brutally assaulted. One good man, a man of God was killed. There is no cause for pride in what has happened in Selma. There is no cause for self-satisfaction in the long denial of equal rights of millions of Americans. What there is cause for hope and for faith in our democracy in what is happening here tonight, for the cries of pain and the hymns and protests of oppressed people have summoned into convocation all the majesty of this great government, the government of the greatest nation on earth.

Our mission is at once, the oldest and the most basic of this country to right, wrong, to do justice, to serve man in our time. We have come to live with the moments of great crisis. Our lives have been marked with debate about great issues, issues of war and peace, issues of prosperity and depression. But rarely in any time does an issue lay bear the secret heart of America itself. Rarely are we met with a challenge, not to our growth, our abundance, or our welfare or our security, but rather to the values and the purposes and the meaning of our beloved nation.

The issue of equal rights for American Negroes is such an issue. And should we defeat every enemy and should we double our wealth and conquer the stars and still be unequal to this issue, then we will have failed as a people and as a nation for with a country as with a person, what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"

We Shall Overcome” Speech Analysis

LBJ used powerful language to emphasize the moral imperative of equal voting rights for all citizens in his speech. We ran this speech through Yoodli’s AI-powered speech coach, and got back an analysis on various aspects of word choice and delivery. You can view the full results here.

Word Choice

LBJ employed empathetic word choice to inspire support for voting rights and the civil rights movement. Yoodli’s analysis reflects this, showing no filler words, very few weak words (1%), and that his top keyword was “man.”


In the Delivery category, Yoodli provides scores on Centering, Pacing, Pauses, and Eye Contact. The highlight metric to look at here is pace. LBJ had a quite slow pace, at about 93 words per minute. Yoodli recommended being at least 120 to ensure the audience stays engaged.

Wrapping Up

If you like this “We Shall Overcome” speech summary, text, and quick analysis, sign up to Yoodli for free and see how you can get the same kind of feedback on any speech you upload or record. It’s a great way to practice your own public speaking skills as you learn to convince your audience, just as LBJ did!


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