Note: If you have been a follower for a long time, you may remember that I run this post most years on November 19th. Here it is again, adjusted for the year; I think it is well worth thinking about for both for anyone who speaks in public or writes a blog…
President Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863, 152 years ago today. Of course, the occasion was to dedicate a cemetery of the battlefield at the scene of the greatest carnage in American history.
On that particular morning, a great ceremony was held at the scene. A very famous orator, Mr. Edward Everett gave the main speech that day before the assembled crowd which included numerous dignitaries; his speech went on for hours, as was the custom in those days. He was followed by Mr. Lincoln, who spoke for a couple of minutes.
The newspapers reported that Mr. Lincoln’s speech was either wonderful or terrible, depending upon whether or not the newspaper support Republicans or Democrats, but one thing is clear: All these years later, only historians are familiar with Mr. Everett; everyone has heard Mr. Lincoln’s remarks. Mr. Lincoln, in his brief statement pulled a nation together, pointed it forward and gave his people a reason to carry on.
It is interesting to note the contrast between the wordy Mr. Everett, his flowery language and speaker’s tricks and the simple and direct Mr. Lincoln. Maybe all of us should learn to measure our words more carefully, speak to the point and always to speak the truth.
Here is Mr. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in full. Do take a second to read it and to reflect on its meaning…
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on 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 battle-field 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 that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not 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 the earth.”