Tag Archives: Preaching

Lincoln vs. Everett: A Public Speaking Smackdown


English: Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth Presid...

English: Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States. Latviešu: Abrahams Linkolns, sešpadsmitais ASV prezidents. Српски / Srpski: Абрахам Линколн, шеснаести председник Сједињених Америчких Држава. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


On this 150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, we preachers and speakers are reminded of an important lesson.  Its what you say, not how long you speak.

Lincoln’s famed address, easily the most famous speech in American History, takes less than 2 minutes to speak.  Edward Everett, a local preacher well-respected for his oratory, spoke for two hours before Lincoln, and did so with great impressiveness.  But no one remembers he spoke, let alone what he said.  It was Lincoln’s day to shine!  Everett himself was impressed with Lincoln’s speech, saying, “I wish that I could flatter myself that I had come as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes.”

Let preachers take note, we who often feel the need to fill a certain space of time when we preach.  Speak the message, and be done.  Thus did Father Abraham.

And here is the speech, short enough for a brief blog post, in case you haven’t read it yet today:

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on 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 battle-field 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 that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not 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 government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”