These words would forever be remembered by Americans–almost every American is familiar with at least these opening lines of the short speech by Abraham Lincoln known as the iconic Gettysburg Address.
Abraham Lincoln for me is the greatest public speaker of all time. He is able to deliver the most quoted speech in the world that lasted for only about two minutes. I am talking about the Gettysburg Address of course, the speech that he delivered after the Union Army defeated the Confederates.
The Gettysburg Address is Lincoln’s only known speech, and yet it is the most popular speech in the United States, if not the world. I feel that he is great public speaker because he did not need a novel-long speech to say what he wanted and to send his message to the people. It is annoying and boring when public speakers speak for hours on end without making much sense, or worse, just bragging about their achievements and the promises they make. The saying that great things come in small packages is true in the case of Lincoln’s speech.
Abraham Lincoln was definitely an ethical public speaker and ethical president, it’s too bad he got assassinated. Lincoln fought for equality, especially among African-Americans, the Gettysburg address itself talks about human equality. Lincoln also proposes that the living should remember all those who perished fighting for freedom.
As mentioned, Lincoln was assassinated, not that he would still be alive if he hadn’t been assassinated but he could have done more for the United States. Perhaps he could have drafted another memorable and strong speech, but I guess we’ll never know. It seems great public speakers and leaders are destined to be eliminated, one way or the other, at least in past.
The audience of Lincoln’s speech is, of course, the American people, composed of soldiers, politicians, and regular citizens. On a larger scale, the speech of Lincoln is addressed to everyone, to serve as reminder of the events that happened during the Civil War and specifically, what transpired in the Battle of Gettysburg.
Lincoln’s message is clear—he wants his audience to remember the brave men that died fighting for freedom and for his audience to remember what they fought for—equality for all. He also implied in his speech that the Civil War is not merely a conflict between the Union Armies and the Confederates but should be seen as the “new birth of freedom”
What I also like about Lincoln’s public speaking prowess is his innate knowledge in drafting one. His speech is effective because it has an effective and memorable introduction. The same goes with his concluding lines that are just as popular as the opening lines.
“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.” (Lincoln, 1863).
Lincoln, Abraham. Gettysburg Address. 1863. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
The Gettysburg Address. Library of Congress.