Lincoln's Gettysburg Address,
given November 19, 1863 on the battlefield near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, USA

Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war... testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated... can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war.

We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate... we cannot consecrate... we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us... that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion... that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain... that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom... and that government of the people... by the people... for the people... shall not perish from this earth.

Nearly 140 years ago, Abraham Lincoln made his most famous speech. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, only 269 words long, certainly was nothing amazing from a literary standpoint. In fact, it wasn’t even flawless from a grammatical standpoint. Despite these facts, this short speech was perhaps the best speech ever made by any President. It may very well have been the best speech ever made by an American citizen.

What was it that made it so different? What gave it that special something to allow it to last through history and remain one of the most memorable speeches in history?

One of the most interesting attributes to this speech is Lincoln’s humbleness, clearly present throughout. One of the easiest ways to see this is the fact that he never uses the words I, me or myself. In places where any other President would have taken credit for himself, Lincoln gave credit where it was due. In fact, he emphasized the fact that it was not his speech or the action of commemorating the battlefield as a landmark and an official battle cemetary that made it sacred. He was sure to point out that the credit was due to the people who fought the war, and laid down their lives, the ultimate sacrifice, for a just and worthy cause. He also pointed out that as Americans it was their duty to finish what the heroic soldiers from the Battle of Gettysburg had started.

Lincoln also had superb word selection. Although the vocabulary he used was nothing outstanding, the words were somewhat different and very memorable. Who cannot at least recite the first few words from the Gettysburg address? If you cannot, chances are you aren’t, or shouldn’t be, an American.

The address was also very fitting for the time and topic of the event at which he spoke. The address was at the dedication of the national cemetery located on the battlefield in Gettysburg. His humility and somberness, along with his “alter call” urging Americans to keep charging forth for what is righteous.

Also untypical of political speeches to this day. Honest Abe’s brevity was a pleasant change. Although his speech was extremely short, it was well focused and drove his message home. In fact, it was so brief, that the event photographer was unable to get his picture before he was finished and only captured Lincoln’s image as he descended from the speech platform.

If you finish this node taking only one concept with you, let it be the fact that humility speaks louder than pride. Although you may note that prideful people are usually much louder and obnoxious than those that are humble. I am sure you grasp the concept I am trying to convey. Maybe the banal expression we so often hear would fit well here. Less is More.

The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here… Wanna bet?

Just some odds and ends regarding the Gettysburg Address.

Sometimes Simple is Better

A quick count of the words that comprise the Gettysburg Address reveals the following. Of the two hundred and sixty nine words that make up the address, two hundred and five of them are made up of one syllable, another forty six had two and only twenty or so had three syllables or more. The address is only ten sentences long and the last sentence alone accounts for almost one third of the entire speech.

Running Time – A Little Over Two Minutes

It seems that prior to making his address, Lincoln was preceded by one of the famed orators of his day, a man by the name of Edward Everett. Everett was a graduate of Harvard, (he later became president of the university), a professor of Greek, the former governor of Massachusetts and the ambassador to England. He was so well known that the original date of the dedication of the cemetery was changed in order to fit his schedule. Before Lincoln went on, he spoke to the audience (estimated at about 18,000) for over two hours and his speech was warmly received. Lincoln then took the stage and congratulated Everett on a job well done. He then went on to utter his immortal words.

A little while afterward, Lincoln received a letter from Edwards that stated the following.

“Sir, I should be grateful to flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”

Lincoln’s reply went something to the effect of “I am pleased to know that in your judgment, the little I did say was not entirely a failure.”

Commentary

I know I sometimes struggle with how long I should make a particular w/u and for as long as I’ve been here at E2, the debate regarding the length (or lack thereof) of certain write ups flares up every once in awhile. Some people like the short, two bits of information and others might like to wade through reams of documentation to find what they’re looking for. Whatever the case may be, lets all try and remember that it’s the content that counts.

Aside

I’m not gonna count the words but I’m pretty sure the w/u is now longer than the actual Gettysburg Address. I am however, 100% positive it will not have the same impact.

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