The Real Gettysburg Address

The Gettysburg address is probably the best known and most admired complete speech in American history. It is also well known that when Abraham Lincoln finished his now famous speech he felt it had failed. Indeed, the press of the day gave Lincoln's remarks poor reviews. How can these great words and their tepid reception at the time be reconciled?It's all in the delivery.Even words as powerful as those of the Gettysburg address can dangle limply in the ears of a tired audience if read by a less than enthusiastic speaker. Lincoln was giving his speech under the worst possible conditions. First of all, he forgot his trademark stovepipe hat back at the hotel. With a blustery November wind whipping across the Pennsylvania battlefield, Lincoln spoke to the troops wearing a knit cap in "Union" colors. The President made the mistake of opening with a joke -- totally inappropriate for the somber ocassion. Most troublesome, however, was that the opening speaker - former Massachusetts Governor Edward Everett -- spoke for TWO HOURS. This angered Lincoln to no end. It was November, it was cold, and his opening act is doing two hours. History only recorded the body of Lincoln's prepared words, the now legendary Gettysburg Address, but here is the whole speech, with parenthetical asides included, as it sounded on that late fall day of 1863."Thank you governor, soldiers, my fellow Americans. And thanks to governor Everett for those concise, yeah right, remarks. Good thing I had planned on spending the night. First off, let me mention that I will be available afterwards to sign the latest edition of my logs. They make wonderful Christmas gifts and you can build a cabin just like the one I grew up in. I was going to open with a joke but I think in the interest of time....{Audience yells for Lincoln to go ahead and tell the joke} Tell it? I don't think...Alright. General McClelan told me this one. Soldier walks into a bar with a banana in his ear. Bartender says, "Soldier, you've got a banana in your ear." Soldier says, "Sorry, I can't hear you. I've got a banana in my ear." {Long silent pause} Well, it was funny when McClelan told it. Course he didn't have some guy jabbering for two hours before hand. Nothing's funny now. So on with the speech.Fourscore and seven years ago, (about the time Everett started speaking) our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. (And that none should speak that much longer than others.)Now we are engaged in a great civil war (or at least we were before the last speech. It might be over by now for all I know) testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. (And speaking of long enduring...how bout that Everett speech) We are met on a great battlefield 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. (Including those that probably shot themselves halfway through those last remarks. O.K. enough about Everett. I'm just going to finish my speech and show you how quickly it can be done)."At this point Lincoln raced through the remaining few sentences in one breath. When he finished he looked at his watch, tapped it, glanced at Everett and proclaimed, "2 minutes 43 seconds!"Lincoln closed with these extemperaneous words -- "I'm outta here."

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