Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Man Behind the Speeches

Michael Fong
Journal #4 Abraham Lincoln
October 7, 2009

"With malice towards none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan-to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lastiing peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." (Lincoln 1636)

"In his company I was never in any way reminded of my humble origin, or of my unpopular color." (Frederick Douglass, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass - Wikiquote)

The second inaugural address came on the eve of preeminent victory for Abraham Lincoln's side. Yet instead of outright celebration, Lincoln adopts a forlorn and melancholy tone in addressing the Civil War, the war that left the United States in tattered pieces. He suggests in his speech that the war was spurned forth by a higher power, or a divine power, as a punishment to their wrongful deeds. Lincoln ends with slight hope and optimism, calling for the people to unite as one and to heal together.

Lincoln possesses the ability that comes with the long line of successful orators before him: the ability to unite people with the power of his words. Despite the conclusion of the Civil War being one of the most turbulent and chaotic times in U.S. history, I myself could honestly say that if I were an audience when Lincoln delivered his speech, even though if I disagree with his beliefs and ideals, I would still be extremely moved. As I read the speech, I could not help but connect it with the similarities of Barack Obama's inaugural speech: "On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics." There is a reason why many of our presidents as well as influential figures from the past look to Lincoln as the inspiration of speeches, and this is why.

It remains a regrettable thing though, that no visual or audio records of Lincoln's speeches were ever captured. Reading the text of the speech is like reading the sheet music of an opera. You could only imagine or visualize the music in harmony together, but you could never get to witness the actual performance. The same thing could be said for Lincoln's speech. The rhythm, the tone, the pace, the pauses, and all the rest of the elements that are incorporated within speeches could not be seen in only the text of the speech. How great would it be if one could go back in time and be amongst the hundreds listening in rapt attention and awe to Lincoln delivering his famous Gettysburg Address, and admire his tremendous oratory in its full glory!

1 comment:

  1. 20 points. It would indeed be cool if there were recordings of Lincoln's address!