Incase you missed it last week marked the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. The actual battle of Gettysburg took place in July of 1863 and was one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. In November of 1863, President Abraham Lincoln visited the small town in Pennsylvania for the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. He would make a short speech that was secondary to other arrangements on that day, but it was Lincoln’s words that were never forgotten.
Can you name 10 great speeches in history? Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is certainly on there (well if you are American it certainly is), but why do we all revere this as one of the greatest pieces of rhetoric in history? Well it had certain elements that allow a legacy to unfold.
- First of all, Lincoln won the war. Abraham Lincoln’s image as a person and president let alone an orator would be
drastically different if he lost the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln’s legacy as a person and a successful president has an impact on how important that speech actually was.
- Lincoln’s speech also had great style. The words flow great together and it is quite easy to see the talent and beauty in the written words. While we cannot hear the words coming from Lincoln’s mouth we can all imagine how well it sounded on that day in the chilly November air.
- The speech had great essence. There was body and substance to his speech, even if it was only a couple minutes long. Lincoln makes the founding of the United States and the changing of the United States relevant to the Civil War without ever mentioning Gettysburg, the Union, or the South. He changed the meaning of the war and our country. The war was no longer just to preserve the Union or about state rights, but to uphold it’s greatest promises of freedom and a government of the people, by the people, for the people.
- Impact. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address had a great impact on history. Four score and seven years ago…” is all anyone needs to hear to be reminded of one of the greatest speeches in American history. The only opening line that has had a greater impact and legacy are those of Martin Luther King 100 years later. The Gettysburg Address got better with time. The words of that day continue to remind a country about its principles as a nation and the importance of equality and the great cost of upholding those values. It was the beginning of a great struggle for equality that would last well into the next century.
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