Today is the one-hundred fifty-first anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s delivery of what became known as the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln’s “little speech” (running less than 300 words and delivered in about two minutes) followed the two-hour oration (nearly 14,000 words) of Edward Everett, a Massachusetts man who served as a governor, a congressman, a senator, a secretary of state and a US ambassador.
The address was delivered to help dedicate the national cemetery where Union soldiers (who had fallen at the July 1863 Battle of Gettysburg) were reburied. Clearly one of the most succinct pieces of public speaking craftsmanship, the speech has retained its significance over time. In contrast to Lincoln’s assertion in his remarks, the world has long remembered “what we say here.“
With a couple recent posts about veterans, I’ve acknowledged the sacrifices of those who fought (and some who died) in battle. None from my family (that I know of) fought at Gettysburg, but I share Lincoln’s somber respect for the place and those who are buried there. I think for those who were present at the cemetery dedication, Lincoln’s speech was all the more memorable thanks to the brevity of his remarks (as contrasted against Everett’s lengthy discourse).
I appreciate the words of Friedrich Nietzsche who said: “It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.” I don’t know that Lincoln was acquainted with Nietzsche’s idea, but I find it interesting that the Gettysburg Address is exactly ten sentences.