What Was Lincoln’s Primary Goal Immediately Following The Civil War – In one of the first posts on this blog, I compared Lincoln’s two-minute speech to Edward Everett’s two-hour speech on the same occasion. Today, people consider the first of the most famous speeches in American history; the latter is largely forgotten. Everett himself acknowledged the genius of Lincoln’s speech in a note he sent to the president shortly after the event:
“I should like to flatter myself that I got as close to the main idea of the show in two hours as you did in two minutes.”
What Was Lincoln’s Primary Goal Immediately Following The Civil War
In a speech consisting of just 10 sentences and 272 words, Lincoln struck a note that will resonate through time. Why is this short speech so memorable?
Lewis And Clark Expedition, The
First, it’s important to remember the context. America is in the midst of a bloody civil war. Union troops had just defeated Confederate troops at the Battle of Gettysburg. It was a turning point in the war. The stated purpose of Lincoln’s speech was to dedicate a piece of land to become the National Soldiers’ Cemetery. However, Lincoln realized that he also had to inspire the people to continue the fight.
Below is the text of the Gettysburg Address, interspersed with my thoughts on why it was so memorable.
Forty-seven years ago, our fathers gave birth to a new nation on this continent, born of freedom and dedicated to the idea that all men are created equal.
We are now embroiled in a great civil war that tests whether this nation, or any nation, so understanding and committed, can survive.
An Analysis Of The Gettysburg Address
We met on the great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who gave their lives here so that people could live. It is right and proper that we should do this.
But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot dedicate, we cannot dedicate this country.
Brave men, living and dead, who have fought here have sanctified it, far beyond our feeble power to increase or decrease.
The world will not notice, it will not long remember what we are here to say, but it can never forget what they have done here.
Video Guide: Ken Burns The Civil War (ep. 3)
We, who live here, are more concerned with the unfinished work that they have so nobly fought for here so far. It is better for us to be here devoted to the great task that remains before us–that we raise in these venerable dead the devotion to the cause to which they gave their highest full devotion–that we are here firmly resolved that these dead shall not die in vain–that this nation under God shall have a rebirth of liberty–and the government of the people, of the people, for the people shall not perish from the people.
In an excellent analysis of the Gettysburg Address, Nick Morgan offers an interesting look at Lincoln’s repetition of one word throughout the speech:
And buried in the biblical phrase is another device that works unconsciously on the viewer and reader to weave the spell of magic. I have discussed this speech many times with students, clients, and colleagues, and I always ask them what is the most unusual simple word that is repeated in the speech. No one has ever seen it. …
When they looked, people noticed that the word “we” was repeated 10 times. But this is unusual or surprising considering that Lincoln was trying to unite the nation. The whole speech is about “we”. No, the repetition of the word “here” was unusual. …
President Abraham Lincoln > Jag Reporter > Article View Post
Eight times in 250 words—two minutes—Lincoln evoked a place—the holy ground of Gettysburg—by repeating the word “here.” As a result, it casts a kind of spell over the listener, then and then, which is unconscious but subconsciously seems to have a powerful effect.
Repetition is an important aspect of great public speaking. The trick is to know what and how to repeat it. Take a lesson from Lincoln. Sometimes it’s the little words that have the most power.
We can learn a lot about public speaking by studying the great speeches in history. The Gettysburg Address is one of the best. Lincoln took his audience on a journey. It started with the founding of America and ended at a crossroads. He wanted to make sure the American people chose the right path. And he did.
We may never give a speech or presentation that becomes as famous as the Gettysburg Address, but we can still make an impact when we speak. For a detailed overview of how to write a speech outline, see this post.
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At His Second Inauguration, Abraham Lincoln Tried To Unite The Nation
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