Since this is the week of Memorial Day I am reminded of the fact that Edward Everett, who was the most famous orator of the day in 1863, gave a two hour speech at Gettysburg. After his long winded presentation, President Abraham Lincoln deciding the crowd had stood long enough in the hot sun gave a few short remarks, most of which he had crafted on a scrap of paper that afternoon. It was so short, less than 2 minutes, that the audience was not even certain he was finished and the photographer had not even focused his camera. The result of course was one of the most famous speeches in American history, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
Lincoln was wrong about one thing he said in that speech, “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here . . .” In fact these simple words have endured nearly 150 years and many people are proud to commit them to memory. This speech was so good that even Edward Everett wrote a note to Lincoln the next day, telling him of his appreciation for the President’s brief, but moving, speech: “I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near the central idea of the occasion in two hours, as you did in two minutes.” Great praise indeed.
One lesson for us is get to the point. It is easy to tell a long story. Understand the essence of your message no matter what you sharing, whether it is a speech; an introduction of yourself or someone else; a video; a website; a brochure or a blog article. Learn to edit. Find what you need to say and say it.
In Lincoln’s short address he conjured up the hope of the founding fathers, reminded his listeners of the issue of equality, and the sacrifice of a war fought to preserve the union of a free government of – for – and by the people .
You can read it for yourself and as you do remember the sacrifices that have been made for you.
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Four score 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 of that war.
We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live.
It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate – we cannot consecrate – we cannot hallow – this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.
The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. 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.
It is rather 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 this government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from this earth.