The history of American speeches is filled with many great orators and their powerful words. However, one particular speech stands out for its significant impact on American history. It was delivered by Abraham Lincoln on November 19, 1863, and it is known as the “Gettysburg Address.”
The Background of the Gettysburg Address
At the time of the speech, the Civil War was raging in America. President Lincoln had just won a decisive battle against the Confederate army at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The victory came at a high price with over 50,000 casualties on both sides.
Lincoln was invited to deliver a speech at the dedication of a cemetery for Union soldiers who lost their lives in the battle. He was not even the main speaker; that honor went to Edward Everett, a well-known orator of that time.
But Lincoln’s two-minute long speech had an impact that far surpassed Everett’s two-hour-long address.
The Gettysburg Address
The Gettysburg Address is only 272 words long but its message of unity and democracy still resonates today.
Here are some excerpts from this historic speech:
“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.”
In this opening sentence, Lincoln reminds his audience that America’s founding principle was freedom and equality for all.
“..that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
This sentence emphasizes Lincoln’s belief in democracy – that government should be run by ordinary citizens rather than just an elite few.
“It is 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.”
In this final sentence, Lincoln reiterates the importance of the Union soldiers’ sacrifice and their commitment to ensuring that America remains a free and democratic nation.
The Impact and Legacy of the Gettysburg Address
The Gettysburg Address was initially met with mixed reactions. Some considered it too short and inadequate for such an important event. However, as time went on, its words became engraved in American history.
The speech is now regarded as one of the greatest speeches in American history and has become a symbol of hope and unity for generations to come.
- The Gettysburg Address inspired people to fight for civil rights and equality.
- It continues to be studied in schools across America as an example of powerful rhetoric.
- Its message has been echoed by other great American leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., who delivered his own famous “I Have A Dream” speech.
Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was a monumental moment in American history. Its message of unity and democracy continue to inspire generations. As we remember those who lost their lives fighting for what they believed in, we must also remember Lincoln’s call to uphold freedom and democracy for all.