Abraham Lincoln is one of the world’s famous orator and his speeches are still famous up to date. He knew how to deliver his speeches in a manner that would keep the crown listening attentively and keep them remembering the words of his speech for a long time. There are many quotes and speeches that people remember him for and one of the famous speeches he delivered during his tenure as a president was in 19th of November in 1863 during the cemetery dedication in Gettysburg. He only has three minutes to deliver his dedicatory speech after the long speech deliver by another speaker in the same event Everett. Lincoln’s speech during the cemetery dedication ceremony was very short with only two hundred and seventy two words in total, but its impact and content were enough to serve his desired purpose especially when one considers the civil war that had just ended and the kind of audience he was addressing. The speech was in his famous rhetoric corpus and he focused on the deliberative aspect of rhetorical speech in order to have lasting effect on the crowd and the nation as a whole. He applied the epideictic genre in his speech delivery and this is how he has managed to remain in the hearts of many people affected by the civil war. He aimed at reuniting the Americans after the civil war and this is exactly what he did by delivering his speech in a short, but very touching rhetorical way. It is therefore, important to consider how effective his rhetorical speech in uniting the Americans after the Civil War especially when one assesses the form he used in delivering his speech (Raymond & Carpenter, 1865).
The speech began with a brief recollection of the country’s history and especially the American Revolution. His main aim when delivering this as the first sentence and naming the south and the north by their names were aimed at ensuring that the citizens appreciated and remembered the fact that their ancestors fought for the independence of America as a whole. The aim of this sentence was to remind the citizens that they have a common ancestry and that all men are equal. He was keen to avoid mentioning the hardships and the turmoil the people who fought in the revolution went through because the speech was a sensitive one considering that he was addressing mourners who were there to remember the fallen soldiers. He avoided naming specific heroes of the revolution in order to avoid further differences in his speech that might further harm the nation. This is the use of epideictic praise in order to establish a foundation to rebuild and heal the nation (Newman, 1974). Lincoln is keen on supporting his deliberative aspect of the speech and he does this effectively in the second part of the speech where he focuses on praising the nation for ending the civil war. He further goes on to explain that the civil war was not as disastrous as it seems, but only served as a measure of the country’s tolerance to internal conflict. With this part of his speech, he aimed at making light of the civil war in order to speed up the healing and unification of the wounded and divided nation. He calls the civil war a great war and in this aspect as used in epideictic genre changes the aspect of a great civil war to a great nation where people were able to endure and surpass the effects of conflict.
He states that the nation is a dedicated one and does not condemn the fallen soldiers. Instead, he goes ahead and praises them for being able to persevere and giving their lives to preserve their great nation. He claims that Gettysburg was the place where the great soldiers who gave their lives fighting to preserve the nation were a final place where they could go to rest. The significance of this statement in preserving and unifying his audience is remarkable as it serves to remind the mourners and everyone in attendance that they were all great people and that they have a role to play in uniting the nation and forgetting about the past (Lincoln & Roe, 1907). His main aim when using the epideictic "praise" in his first part of the speech was to lay a good foundation for his deliberative speech where he would appeal to the citizens after attracting their attention and making them feel as a part of the nation and not judging anyone nor taking their side. He aimed at making a deliberative call for all Americans to focus on the future and put the scars of the war behind them.
In the third part of his speech, Lincoln shifts from his previous use of epideictic genre in delivering his speech to a deliberative genre. The way he arranges his sentences and delivers them in a systematic way makes his speech a good one that the audience can connect with. The main aspect f his speech in the third part was to appeal t p the citizens to be united ad complete the work started by those who were now resting at their final place. With his first part of the speech he had focused in making the audience appreciate the common ancestry and the importance of a united nation. Therefore, the third part is an appeal to the people to remember the works and the lives the soldiers have sacrificed fighting in the war, (Newman, 1974). He puts this is such a manner that the audience is compelled to think about the lives of the people lying in the cemetery and the lives lost in the civil war and then deliberate on the best course of action. He makes sure the listeners are connected in a way to the past and reminds them of the fights and the stages the country has gone through in its history and the importance of making sure that the fights and the lives are not in vain. With this in mind, the audience and the country as a whole would be more dedicated in rebuilding the nation and reconciling. He offers a plan to the citizens using the dead to reunite them. He claims that the living has a vital role to play in finishing what those lying in the cemetery started and he praises their work. This way the citizens can understand that it is important to rebuild the nation and help complete the work stated by those who lost their lives and left the work unfinished.
He finishes his statement by uniting the audience and anyone who would listen to his speech later on by saying that those left behind have a great task of accomplishing what has been started. This is very effective for the audience as they are very sensitive on the issue of the civil war and on the fallen soldiers. He uses the term unfinished work rhetorically to make sure that the audience go home wondering what the unfinished work is and the role they can play in making sure that thy unite and finish the work. He praises the audience and uses great terms to define them .he states that the living are great people who are dedicated to finishing the great task and ensuring they have a great link and devotion to the mission at hand and the cause of death of the soldiers (Kim & Kim, 2007). Here he aims at reaching the emotions of the audience and appealing to them to be devoted to uniting the nation and helping it recover from the wounds of the war. He finishes his statement by talking about the government of the people by the people that was there for the people. With the issue of the government at hand, he aimed at ensuring that the citizens knew that the government was committed to healing the nation.
The government was one of the ways that Americans could use to have a secure future. This served all the people and helped in the healing process. The civil war according to Abraham Lincoln in his speech was a unifying factor to all the Americans because they now shared a common experience that made them a part of the country. The purpose of the civil war and its effects were transformed into great experiences and the fallen soldiers were transformed into great heroes who played a key role in shaping the future of the nation. This is what Lincoln aimed at when applying epideictic "praise" in his first part of the speech and the closing it on deliberative remarks. His major aim was to talk about the need to be united as one nation, but he made sure that he kept this aspect until the very last part of his speech. He started by appeasing the emotions of the audience and making them feel that he understood them and knew the reasons for the war. The speech was a very touching one and it made the situation in the cemetery transform form a mourning one to an applausive one as the audience applauded him almost five times during his short speech. His use of good oratory skills and the way he delivered the message made it possible to transform the feelings of the audience form mourning to a celebratory mood because they felt connected with the dead soldiers and also knew that they had to build a united nation where the causes of the civil war would no longer be existent (Reed, 2009).
This speech by Abraham Lincoln was very sensitive and it was delivered in a place where being sensitive to the feelings of the mourners was of utmost importance. Therefore, he had to thread on careful grounds when delivering his message in such a way that he could appreciate the lives of the fallen soldiers and at the same time make it clear that the people had to move on with life and start focusing on creating a united country with a secure future. The way he uses praise and deliberative aspects of speeches best serve this purpose. He connects with the emotions of the audience and makes them feel as very important members of the country. He manages to transform their grief to hope and faith in their abilities to endure so much and therefore deserve secure and a safe country where wars would not be the order of the day. The use of different genres at the beginning of a speech and finishing it with a unifying one is very important and this served the purpose Lincoln aimed at when delivering the speech (Chadwick, 1999). He was able to merge with the sad mood of the mourners and at the same time reconnect with the audience on the importance of rebuilding the nation. He did not overlook the sacrifices of the soldiers and their families, but he also made it clear that the citizens had to use the memories and the experience to create a new future and secure future. The use of great people and great soldiers to signify the importance of different vents in history and the people ensured that the people felt as a part of the country and that they all had equal roles to play in rebuilding and healing the nation.
Chadwick, B. (1999). The two American Presidents: a dual biography of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. Secaucus, NJ: Carol Pub. Group.
Lincoln, A., & Roe, M. (1907). Speeches and letters [of] Abraham Lincoln. London: J.M. Dent & Sons.
Kim, N., & Kim, B. (2007). Abraham Lincôn. Hà Nội: Nhà xuá̂t bản Kim Đò̂ng.
Newman, R. G. (1974). An Abraham Lincoln commemorative tribute. Chicago: History
Raymond, H. J., & Carpenter, F. B. (1865). The life and public services of Abraham Lincoln,
sixteenth president of the United States: together with his state papers, including his
speeches, addresses, messages, letters, and proclamations; also, a history of the
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Reed, T. J. (2009). Lincoln and the law. Wilmington, DE: Widener Law.