Words Do Matter: A Memorial Day contemplation about Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

One of the many things love about living in Washington DC is living amongst so many political and historical landmarks. My Metro ride to work lets me off on the only station on the National Mall. When I make coffee in the morning, I look out the window at the Washington Monument. My regular running route is around the U.S. Capitol.

But of all of the monuments in DC, the one that still gives the most chills is standing in the Lincoln Memorial and reading the inscription of the Gettysburg Address on the south interior wall. My thoughts returned to the immortal words of Lincoln when I made a trip to Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg, PA yesterday afternoon with my wife and her family.

I have always considered myself a student of history, but for some reason I have never really latched on to military history. Taking the audio tour through Gettysburg was really eye-opening in the extent and the amount of bloodshed spread on both sides. This only added to me the meaning of Lincoln’s address, one that I already consider to be the greatest in American history, that Lincoln gave four and a half months after the conclusion of the battle at the Soldier’s National Cemetery.

So what made Lincoln’s oratory of just over 120 seconds so great that day? The imagery is stunning. Lincoln artfully takes the principles of the Declaration of Independence and successfully leads the country, in the midst of its greatest crisis to date, on implementing those principles for the good of all. We all have so much to learn with the way that Lincoln was able to use words to convey his message.

So as I sit here on Memorial Day, I have two main thoughts.
1. What have I done to “dedicate myself to the unfinished work which they who fought at Gettysburg have thus far so nobly advanced”?
At Gettysburg thousands of men gave the “last full measure of devotion” in service of their country and the ideals of that nation and I wonder what I have accomplished after three decades on this planet. There were times in my life that I thought about military service, but for many reasons it never happened. But even without serving in the military directly, what do I need to do deserve to live in a country that the brave men of Gettysburg fought for?
2. Words do matter.
Lincoln has showed us words can change people. Words can inspire. Words can change a country. If there is no other reason to study and become skilled at the art and science of oratory, it is that throughout history we have seen no greater weapon to affect the hearts and minds of men.

Image credit: V. Demro, 2013

Question: How do you use public speaking to create positive change in your community?

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One comment on “Words Do Matter: A Memorial Day contemplation about Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address
  1. […] in the 70s, the male representative would recite Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (which I wrote about last Memorial Day after a touching trip to the battlefield). While I am not sure how far back it goes, I remember […]

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