The occasion was the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The style of the day was for orators (speakers) to go on and on with long, soaring speeches. And indeed, one of the most famous orators of the time, Edward Everett, had been invited to speak, and he wowed the crowd with two hours of grand speechifying. Then President Lincoln, who was coming down with a mild case of smallpox and felt a bit ill, stood up and gave what he was asked to give: “a few appropriate remarks.”
A mere 10 sentences.
He started and was finished in just a couple of minutes. The photographer missed taking a picture of him while speaking, he finished so unexpectedly quickly!
Lincoln received very little, if any, applause. (Reports differ.)
And yet this speech, these 272 words, are considered one of the greatest speeches in American history!
Lincoln looked at the founding principles of the U.S. within the prism of the Civil War, and he restated the principles of human equality, expressed in the Declaration of Independence, within the context of the ending of slavery. He talked about the preservation of the nation and finished with iconic words describing the American government: “...this government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
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.
|The Gettysburg Address|
is carved on the walls of the
Check these out...
I like this animated video and stirring reading of the Gettysburg Address A LOT.
Here is another video about the Gettysburg Address.
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