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At 160 the Gettysburg Address still has meaning.

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At 160 the Gettysburg Address still has meaning. Edward Everett was to be the main speaker. Inviting Lincoln was an afterthought. Lincoln received the Invitation a week before the event.

Everett spoke for two hours. Lincoln for two minutes. But what two minutes it was.

Lincoln’s ability to imbue those 272 words with meaning is one of the reasons the speech has become hallmark of American oratory; by the early 20th century, especially after the horrors of World War I, Americans increasingly returned to the Gettysburg Address not just as a definition of what the war was about, but also what America was about.

By 1914, the construction of the Lincoln memorial began, with the Gettysburg Address prominently part of the neoclassical tribute to the 16th President of the United States. At the same time, the country’s first cross-country road, the “Lincoln Highway,” is named.

An address we still need.

The Gettysburg Address has had a “shelf life” throughout our modern history, where we can brush it off and take it out when we need it. “In part, because of the way that Lincoln composed it — he doesn’t mention a single place by name. He doesn’t mention a single person by name. He only alludes to one date, and that’s 1776.”

Thankfully, the veterans of that war — in their search for purpose and meaning — plucked those words out of obscurity and refused to allow the consequences of time to erode a profound ethos that endures — and in many ways defines who we are — today.

 

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By MC

Master of Truth. A writer who has captured the imagination of many.

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