There are few things that are as moving as a great speech. However, creating a great inspirational speech can at times be an impossible task. To improve my public speaking skills, not only do I participate in Toastmasters, I also enjoy studying other speeches. One of the great inspirational speeches of all time is the Gettysburg Address given by Abraham Lincoln on November, 19, 1843. President Lincoln made a great use of what I call “movement.” He brings the listener on a journey and walks them through to inspiration. Come along with me as we take that same journey.
President Lincoln starts off by finding a common element from the past that will unite the listeners and create a since of ownership.
“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.”
Next he brings the audience to the present and reminds them of the reality of the day.
“Now we are engaged in a great civil war… testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.”
Lincoln then introduces what first appears to be his point. Why is he speaking? What are the listeners looking for? But in actuality he is setting the assembled crowd up for something more.
“We have come to dedicate a portion of that filed as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.”
Now he begins to transition to giving inspiration for a greater purpose and takes the listeners into the future. President Lincoln let them know that there was still much more left to do to restore the nation. It was up to them to make it happen. He cast a vision that was bigger than themselves. Unity and restoration would only happen if they took up the task to make it happen.
“But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate… we cannot consecrate… we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men 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 l0ng remember, what we say here. but it can never forget what they did here.
It is for us the living, rather, to dedicate here to the unfinished work which they 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 government of the people… by the people… for the people… shall not perish from the earth.”
Abraham Lincoln was a master of creating a speech that seemed to flow as easy as moving water while always staying on his point. He was simple and humble in his ways and many described him as homely looking. However, it was that simplicity that made him excel as a communicator. And on this day he did it using only ten sentences.
From what I understand, the person before President Lincoln spoke for over two hours. Do you know who he is? have you ever listened to his speech? In ten sentences President Lincoln gave what some believe to be on of the best speeches of all time.
He drew the people in by uniting them with a common element, and created a sense of ownership. He then brought them to the present and gave them a purpose for that moment in time. Lincoln then inspired them with a purpose that would take them into the future. It was short, simple, and too the point. However, it was very effective in its message to inspire people and to act on a noble cause.
As a side note: The speaker that spoke for two hours before President Lincoln was Edward Everett