Ten Famous Eulogies and What You Can Learn From Them

The process of preparing and delivering a eulogy is incredibly daunting, even for the most seasoned public speaker. You will be responsible for delivering a speech that represents the decedent’s final words and you will be delivering the speech to a group of the decedent’s loved ones. If you have never before delivered a eulogy, it’s a good idea to review eulogies that were previously delivered by others so you can gain inspiration and evaluate what goes into preparing a eulogy worthy of the occasion. Here is a list of ten famous eulogies to help guide your efforts.

Ten Famous Eulogies

Mattie Stepanek’s Eulogy Delivered by President Jimmy Carter

Mattie was a boy who, through the Make-a-Wish foundation, met former President Jimmy Carter in 2001. Through that meeting, and many subsequent correspondences, President Carter formed a genuine bond with Mattie that he spoke about during the eulogy.  Mattie passed away in 2004.

No video available, here’s text of the eulogy.

 

John F. Kennedy Jr.’s Eulogy Delivered by His Uncle Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy

Senator Kennedy’s remarkable eulogy for his nephew, John F. Kennedy, Jr., was highlighted by personal memories of his nephew, quotes from his nephew, and he spoke eloquently about John’s positive attributes. He even quoted a poem that was recited by an Irish ambassador soon after John’s birth.

 

 

Steve Jobs Eulogy Delivered by His Sister, Mona Simpson

Mona detailed how she wasn’t aware she had a brother until Steve sought her out as an adult. She relayed the things that she learned from her big brother throughout their adult relationship, and explained who he was as a person, not a businessman.

No video is available 

 

 

Mickey Mantle’s Eulogy Delivered by Bob Costas

Spoken with humility and humor, Bob Costas identified himself as simply representing the “baseball-loving kids who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s”. In his eulogy, Bob Costas detailed what Mickey Mantle meant, not only to him, but to all of baseball.

 

 

George Harrison’s Eulogy Delivered by Eric Idle

Eric Idle began his eulogy of George Harrison with humor, but kept it tasteful and respectful. The success of the eulogy is that he honored George Harrison, but kept the eulogy light, warm and good-natured throughout.

 

 

Coretta Scott King’s Eulogy Delivered by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou painted Mrs. King as a woman of grace, dignity and strength from the very beginning of the eulogy. She personalized it by sharing memories they shared together, and brought everyone else into it by ending it with a personal call to action that they continue Mrs. King’s work for civil rights.

 

 

Father Mychal Judge’s Eulogy Delivered by Father Michael Duffy

Father Duffy began the eulogy with humor and entered gracefully into detailing the work performed by Father Judge and the legacy he left behind. Father Duffy also quoted from the Bible while telling stories and weaving in inspiration for the mourners in attendance.

No video is available 

 

Mahatma Gandhi’s Eulogy Delivered by Jawaharlal Nehru

The strength of this eulogy is its structure and its inspiration.  Jawaharlal Nehru began the eulogy by saying that “the light has gone out”, but later in the eulogy spoke of Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy, and how, because of it, the light, in fact, had not gone out. He also spoke of the poison that had spread, and how it should not define them. Euphemisms and metaphors can be powerful when used appropriately in a eulogy.

 

 

Rosa Park’s Eulogy Delivered by Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey began her eulogy of Rosa Parks by revealing who Rosa Parks was to her, and how Ms. Parks inspired her throughout her childhood. She continued by broadening her statement to include what Ms. Parks and her enduring legacy meant to humanity as a whole, and concluded the eulogy by thanking Ms. Parks for her courage.

 

 

Graham Chapman’s Eulogy Delivered by John Cleese

John Cleese began his eulogy of Graham Chapman with humor. He described their relationship, and honored Mr. Chapman by indicating that he was a source of courage for him. Mr. Cleese shared many funny memories of their relationship, and ended the eulogy by saying that “it will be some time before they fade.”

 

Return to the Eulogy Writing Overview