The Oxford Union has a rich history and a long tradition of bringing together world leaders, thinkers and influencers across politics, religion, science and the arts. Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, HH the Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking are just some of the famous figures that we have had the honour of hosting.
The Union invites speakers from around the world and across the political spectrum, and always provides members the opportunity to challenge the speaker during events. We have been part of some of the biggest and most important discussions to shape world history. It was at the Oxford Union that Gerry Adams proposed the reunification of Ireland while still banned from appearing on television, Colonel Gaddafi argued for a new African Union via a live video stream to the Chamber, and in December 1964 Malcolm X delivered his infamous speech on extremism from the Chamber.
More recently, the Union has hosted Morgan Freeman, Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ian McKellen, Natalie Portman, Stephen Fry, Anna Wintour, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Jackson, Shakira, Senator John McCain, General David Petraeus, Malala Yousafzai, Sepp Blatter, Nancy Pelosi and David Cameron, to name but a few.
Each term's committee works tirelessly to curate a programme of speaker meetings where our members have the unique opportunity to challenge, question and interact with a broad range of speakers - some inspiring, others controversial. Often these talks are followed by book signings and an opportunity to meet the speaker. For details of this term's speaker events, please view our Term Card.
The Oxford Union is committed to ensuring that all members find our events as accessible as possible. If you need any adjustments to access our events, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org who can help you to reserve space for a wheelchair, reserve a space for guide dogs, or make any other necessary arrangements. We have a hearing aid loop in place which is accessed by switching to 'T'.
You can find out more about some of our past speakers below, and visit our YouTube channel to watch some of our past events.
We look forward to welcoming all members, old and new, to a speaker event soon.
From Lloyd George and Winston Churchill, to David Cameron and Theresa May, the Union has hosted Britain’s most influential leaders from across the political spectrum. Tony Benn, Jeremy Corbyn, Nigel Farage, Nick Clegg, David Miliband, and Sir John Major have all spoken in recent years.
Senator Robert Kennedy’s visit in the 1960s also blazed a trail for America’s political heavyweights. We have hosted US Presidents Nixon, Carter, Reagan and Clinton: it was at the Union that President Nixon first publicly apologised for the Watergate scandal. We have welcomed Senators Bernie Sanders and Stacey Abrams; Speaker Nancy Pelosi; and Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright, Henry Kissinger, and John Kerry. Many other Heads of State and Government have addressed the Union, including Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharaff, Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai, and Australian Prime Ministers Malcolm Turnbull and John Howard.
Pioneers of Science
In addition to fictional scientific heroes like Star Trek’s George Takei, we’ve hosted those who have genuinely gone boldly where no-one has gone before, Buzz Aldrin being just one. Since Prof. Albert Einstein’s historic visit in 1933, the Union has gone on to host: Prof. Stephen Hawking, Prof. Richard Dawkins, Prof. John Ellis, Lord Robert Winston, Dame Jade Goodall, Simon Singh and Baroness Greenfield. Often these talks are followed by book signings and an opportunity to meet the speaker.
For hundreds of years, Oxford has been a home for innovation, and our speakers certainly reflect this tradition. The Union has hosted a huge number of world business leaders, including tech billionaires Jack Dorsey, Alexis Ohanian, Peter Thiel, Eric Schmidt and Brian Chesky.
The Union has also played host to business moguls Stephen Schwarzman, Deborah Meaden, Mark Cuban, Touker Suleyman, Bernard Arnault and Lord Sugar and Theo Paphitis. In addition to these speaker meetings, we’ve also hosted multiple networking and information events, including a panel discussion with JP Morgan and the CapitOx Conference.
Stars of Music
In 2001, Michael Jackson chose the Oxford Union to make his first public speech in over a decade, whilst a few years ago Sir Elton John flew in to discuss Putin, gay rights and his stellar career in front of a packed out chamber. In recent times A$AP Rocky, Tom Odell, Marina Diamandis, Akala, Mark Ronson and Shakira have all spoken. Guests often treat our members to intimate concerts: Billy Joel, Hozier, Emeli Sande, Nicola Benedetti, James Blunt, KT Tunstall, The Wombats, Scouting for Girls, Ne-Yo, Snow Patrol, and McFly each delivered performances when they visited.
In one of the more comical controversies of recent times, our chamber has borne witness to FIFA President Sepp Blatter impersonating Cristiano Ronaldo, inspiring an online frenzy and a reaction from the player himself. The Union has hosted footballing royalty Diego Maradona, Edwin van der Sar, and Sir Geoff Hurst; Rugby World Cup winners Lawrence Dallaglio and Will Greenwood; cricket superstars Imran Khan, Ebony Rainford-Brent, Brian Lara, and Andrew Strauss; boxing legends Anthony Joshua, Vitali Klitschko and George Foreman; Formula One champion Nico Rosberg; Wimbledon king Boris Becker; cycling icons Mark Cavendish and Victoria Pendleton; diving champion Tom Daley; hockey medallists Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh; and rowing titans Sir Steve Redgrave, Dame Katherine Grainger, and Helen Glover.
During his recent visit to the Union, Stephen Fry delivered an Oscar Wilde-infused account of his own life, eliciting tears of laughter from a captivated audience. Renowned author Salman Rushdie, architect Dame Zaha Hadid, and literary legend Phillip Pullman have all given equally enthralling talks. We have also been joined by luminaries from the world of journalism, including Sir Michael Parkinson, Clarissa Ward, Jon Snow, Robert Peston, Nick Robinson, David Aaronovitch, and Will Hutton.
Stage & Screen
From veteran thespians to Hollywood’s giants, the Union’s record is remarkable. Members have heard from Morgan Freeman, Dame Judi Dench, Sir Michael Gambon, Emma Watson, Mark Hamill, Natalie Portman, Zach Braff, Martin Scorsese, Bryan Cranston, Kit Harington, Zachary Quinto, and many more. This is not just an opportunity to ask about their latest blockbuster: in some of the most riveting talks to date, Sir Ian McKellen described his lifelong support for the gay rights movement in the United Kingdom, Warwick Davis discussed how disability shapes his life, and Dame Vanessa Redgrave described her work to support refugees the world over.
The Union was founded to allow free discussion of religion, and we continue to provide this today. We have hosted numerous prominent religious figures, including Mother Teresa of Calcutta, HH the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. We frequently host discussions on religion; recent topics have included the existence of God and the relationship between religion, extremism, and politics.