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Old 11-20-2013, 09:10 AM
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The brevity of Abraham Lincoln

Do you have any personal thoughts on this or how did effect you when you first read or learned it in school?
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Old 11-20-2013, 10:48 AM
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
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I'm far from what anyone would describe as a sentimental person, but I found visiting the Lincoln Memorial in DC to be a moving experience. One side wall inside contains the Gettysburg Address, the other the Second Inaugural Address. I read through both and while doing so the words of General Sherman materialized in my thoughts. Sherman had said he had never met anyone who combined both greatness and goodness to the degree that Lincoln possessed.

Those qualities come through in the words on those walls. Smack dab in the middle of what has become the most famous speech in American history we find the humble notation..."The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here."

At the beginning of that same speech is an admirably concise summation of why the north was fighting..."...that any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure." America is now so well established as the most powerful nation on the planet that we may take for granted that this was destiny all along. It wasn't. The crowned heads of Europe had mocked the Americans and their idea of an experiment in government "by the people", insisting that indulging the rabble rather than having power rest exclusively in the hands of the "betters" was a certain formula for disaster, that these upstart levelers would not "long endure." People these days still ask why the North simply didn't let the South go in peace, you may find the answer on that wall in the Memorial.

And that was the essence of the speech. Lincoln was telling the audience, and the world, that they were gathered to honor those who had fallen so that the great experiment in self government "would not perish from the Earth."

We do not have to pretend that Lincoln was perfect or was without some of the flaws common to his era, in order to recognize that Sherman's evaluation was correct. Goodness and greatness....and as shown by the Gettysburg Address, also our greatest poet among presidents.
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Old 11-20-2013, 11:07 AM
Location: New York City
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It’s a short speech, but astonishingly complex and rhetorically sophisticated. Its power lies in the rhythm and sound of the language as much as the sentiments expressed. It’s hard to imagine a speech like this being written today for fear of sounding highfalutin’ and pretentious. Politicians would rather sound like Sarah Palin.
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Old 11-20-2013, 11:30 AM
Location: On the periphery
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It's interesting that Edward Everett spoke for over two hours before Lincoln at Gettysburg, and few have any idea of what he said. Lincoln spoke for a little over two minutes and his words are enshrined forever. Edwin McMasters Stanton, one of Lincoln's severest critics, said perhaps the most memorable line at Lincoln's death: "Now he belongs to the ages."
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Old 11-20-2013, 11:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Chava61 View Post
The brevity of Abraham Lincoln

Do you have any personal thoughts on this or how did effect you when you first read or learned it in school?

Didn't get a lot out of it. Didn't see how it pertains to my objectives. Didn't see any reason to be forced to learn it. Seemed irrelevant to my world. Realized later it was written by a politician. Realized later I was correct and it didn't have much bearing in my life.
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Old 11-20-2013, 04:18 PM
Status: "happy again, no longer catless! t...." (set 4 days ago)
Location: Cushing OK
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The program on the Address on pbs last night was fascinating. One difference between the Civil War and all others was it was the first war with communication between the command and the field. The telegraph today may seem quaint, but it was the twitter of its time. Lincoln spent hours sitting in the telegraph room during the battle and up to it talking to the commanders, something impossible before.

But he was a wordsmith. At the time Presidents didn't usually make speeches. They might write them but it would be read by someone else. His choice to go the battleground and make his own speech was extraordinary. And right up to the end, he was rewriting his words, refining and smoothing them. Fourscore and seven years, for instance, does not refer to the end of the revolution, but Declaration of Independence. He was saying that they were fighting so all people would be free. There are so many masterful references which may not occure the first time but will later.

And it was short enough that it could be published, in its entirity, in the newspaper. This gave it enormous impact. It redefined the intent of the war, and has resonated around the world.

My best memory is from a small star trek convention. We were sharing a lobby with the Lincoln impersonators, who were having their convention the same weekend, the women dressed in period clothes, even kids. The men were in period too, and they were as interested in our stuff for sale as we were in theirs. We found their acurate period dress just awesome.

The next to the last day, we had twelve Lincoln's sitting around a couch, reciting the address together. All in period. There was some stumbling as they were used to their own pace, but it was so impressive we all gave them a round of applause. But you really listened to the words. They were the words of a master of words, and how they flowed was so beautiful.

About a year later my son went to a presentation by one of the men and it was so cool. All the kids were just mesmerized. If you can do that for third graders at the end of the twentyth century, then imagine the impact standing in the middle of a cemetary in its own time. Wow.
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Old 11-20-2013, 05:50 PM
Location: Pennsylvania
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The famous 'envelope':
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Old 11-21-2013, 07:10 AM
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Originally Posted by maf763 View Post
The famous 'envelope':
I don't believe that the letter shown above is the actual "document" used by Lincoln at Gettysburg.

The Library of Congress refers to the above image as a 'Facsimile of Gettysburg address in Lincoln's hand on an envelope' and cites its origin as from St Louis, Missouri.

[Facsimile of Gettysburg address in Lincoln's hand on an envelope.]
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Old 11-21-2013, 07:37 AM
Location: Volcano
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The PBS special last night also made a couple of points I was unfamiliar with before, and I picked up more in my reading afterwards...

It was highly unusual for a President to give a public speech other than during an election campaign. It just wasn't done in that era. Presidents didn't even deliver their own State of the Union address, but merely sent their text over to the Congress to be read to the assembled body. There was no precedent for what he did.

He almost didn't go.

What he read... the previous speaker spoke for 2 hours without notes, while Lincoln actually put on his glasses and read his remarks verbatim... was not the first speech he wrote. His speech was so short that it caught the official photographer completely by surprise and he got only one rushed picture of Lincoln surrounded by crowd, after the speech was over.

At first there was a long silence after Lincoln finished, and he had stepped down in silence and was surrounded by audience members who wanted to shake his hand, when applause started in the back of the crowd, and built to a long, thunderous ovation.

The local newspaper panned the speech, an error in judgment they finally corrected this week.

Whether from the lousy weather, exposure to the crowds, proximity to the cemetery, or some combination, Lincoln became quite ill as a result of the trip, fighting a case of smallpox for weeks to follow.
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Old 11-21-2013, 11:06 AM
Location: Native Floridian, USA
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I will forever stand in awe of the simplicity, the majesty, the humbleness and the cadence of those words.

Unfortunately, he was only given token acknowledgement at the cemetary and forward for many years for this beautiful speech. If you have any sense of poetry in your soul, this has to stir those senses.

I enjoy some of Churchhills speeches, as well, and am often stirred by them. The same with the Martin Luther King I Have a Dream speech. For me, it's about the man and hour, the glimpse into history and to be inspired by it.

Sorry. I didn't mean to run on.
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