On this day, one hundred and forty-seven years ago, Abraham Lincoln gave a 2 and a half-minute speech that has stood the test of time to be considered arguably the greatest American speech of all time. In Gettysburg, PA, President Lincoln followed a 2 hour speech by Edward Everett. Everett later wrote Lincoln and said, “I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in 2 hours as you did in 2 minutes.”
Length doesn’t matter. Words do.
Lincoln understood the moment, gravity, and passion of the situation. Though the war was far from over, Gettysburg was a turning point as the Union repulsed General Lee’s army for the first time. The carnage of the three days of battle was unfathomable. Lincoln’s task was to inspire a country. When he was finished, he sat down thinking the silence around him implied he was a failure. Rather, it was sheer awe.
Lincoln’s legendary speech should be a model for all of us who in business or in life get up to speak. It’s not the length of the speech that matters most. It’s the combination of the right words, at the right time, spoken with great passion that matters most.
Note – this is the only known photo of Lincoln at Gettysburg. His speech was so short and he got up and down so fast, that the camera man couldn’t get a better photo! Imagine that happening today.
© 2010 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved