5 Things Speakers can we learn from the Gettysburg Address

Abraham Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address in 1863. Photo from the Smithsonian.

1. Less is more – the Gettysburg Address was only 272 words and only took 2 minutes.

Too often speakers lose the impact of the message by going too long.  A phrase or idea that would stay with the hearer gets buried by the amount of what is spoken.

I am struck by the brevity of this now famous speech.

2. Start with a Reminder of the Vision – 

President Lincoln began with the nation’s founding premise, “all men are created equal” and clearly stated this is why the nation was founded.

3. Address the ‘Elephant in the Room’ – 

President Lincoln correctly addressed the ‘elephant in the room’ by saying “we are now engaged in a civil war.”  Preachers sometimes try to ignore the big issues hoping no one will notice.

4. Talk Honestly About the Struggle and the Cost – 

President Lincoln talked about those who died here.

5. Tell Listeners Why the Cost is Worth Paying – benefits & consequences

President Lincoln gives vision for the future and the benefits reaped by paying this cost. He then also boldly outlines the consequences of not doing what is right.

They did not die in vain but “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.”  Wow stirring stuff. Worth dying for.

If we won’t pay the cost of this war…This war is “testing whether that nation,…shall long endure.” If we don’t win this war, it’s over. There will be no country.

Bonus Point: End on a High Note

President Lincoln ends the same way he began by vision-casting for what kind of country he wanted.

Start: We’re conceived in Liberty with the vision all men are created equal.
Finish: The soldier didn’t die in vain but “the nation, 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.”

He ended with the big line…by the people, for the people.  That’s what they remembered and they left the speech cheering.

Go here for a complete transcript of the Gettysburg Address.

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