On this day, one hundred and forty-seven years ago, Abraham Lincoln gave a 2 and a half-minute speech that has stood the test of time to be considered arguably the greatest American speech of all time. In Gettysburg, PA, President Lincoln followed a 2 hour speech by Edward Everett. Everett later wrote Lincoln and said, “I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in 2 hours as you did in 2 minutes.”
Length doesn’t matter. Words do.
Lincoln understood the moment, gravity, and passion of the situation. Though the war was far from over, Gettysburg was a turning point as the Union repulsed General Lee’s army for the first time. The carnage of the three days of battle was unfathomable. Lincoln’s task was to inspire a country. When he was finished, he sat down thinking the silence around him implied he was a failure. Rather, it was sheer awe.
Lincoln’s legendary speech should be a model for all of us who in business or in life get up to speak. It’s not the length of the speech that matters most. It’s the combination of the right words, at the right time, spoken with great passion that matters most.
Note – this is the only known photo of Lincoln at Gettysburg. His speech was so short and he got up and down so fast, that the camera man couldn’t get a better photo! Imagine that happening today.
© 2010 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved
November 19, 1863 – Gettysburg, PA. 145 years ago, Abraham Lincoln gave perhaps the greatest two and a half minute speech ever…
“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon 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 battlefield…to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live…But…we cannot dedicate…this ground.
The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it.”
“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…That from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure.”
“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.”