Martin Luther King, Jr. modeled his famous “I Have a Dream” speech after President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Allen C. Guelzo, Director of Civil War Era Studies at Gettysburg College, said at the Heritage Foundation on the anniversary of the latter speech.
Lincoln’s famous address was one of the shortest speeches that became famous, given at a dedication ceremony for the soldier’s cemetery in Gettysburg. Even though it barely spanned 200 words, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address has been the focus of multiple studies and critiques.
The speech was praised by many, including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Ralph Waldo Emerson, at the time. Guelzo quickly dissuaded the audience that Lincoln actually wrote the address while en route to the ceremony, but that he slaved over it for days. The world admired and admires still, said Guelzo, “the simple grandeur of the address.”
What made this speech special was how Lincoln used the typical “middling speech” of lawyers at the time and directly appealed to the people with slang and other such rhetorical tools. It resonated with the people because of its simplicity. It communicated important logical points to the audience.
On another note, instead of attending Gettysburg to celebrate the 150th anniversary of this monumental speech, President Obama sent his Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to speak on his behalf. Locals and local newspapers were livid over Obama’s refusal to attend to commemorate this pivotal speech in American history. One journalist, Donald Gilliland, called it “nothing less than a profile in cowardice.”
Spencer Irvine is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.
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