Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: General — Rick Moran @ 9:57 am

In his book “America in Search if Itself,” Theodore H. White lays down some rules he thinks relate to what makes a good speech.

1. A moment in time
2. A backdrop for the words
3. The words themselves.

Could Martin Luther King have given his “I Have a Dream” speech anywhere else but the Lincoln memorial and have the words echo down to us today? Suppose he had given the speech in 1958 rather than 1963?

White thinks the best political speech he ever heard was Ted Kennedy’s speech at the 1980 convention (”The dream will never die”). He thought the moment-the last of JFK’s generation of Kennedys conceding defeat-and the backdrop of the Democratic National Convention with 80 million people watching acted as a megaphone and rallied the liberal wing of the Democratic party.

I bring this up because Rand Simberg reminded us that today is the 141st anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.

“In a small town in southeastern Pennsylvania, a war-weary president commemorated a new military cemetery, few of which’s first honorees had to travel far to interment, having laid down their lives on that ground just a few months before. It’s useful to remember the words, in light of the recent election, and all the angry talk of Blue and Red, instead of Blue and Gray.”

In Gary Wills’ book “Lincoln at Gettysburg” the author writes that “the address completes the work of the guns,” and talks of “how Lincoln wove a spell that has not yet been broken.” Bruce Catton in “Glory Road” speaks of the address in terms of meaning for BOTH North and South. Catton’s point is that no battle, no war was worth the kind of carnage witnessed at Gettysburg. But Lincoln’s words, by expanding the very definition of freedom, made a start towards binding the nation’s wounds.

Do we give too much credit to Lincoln for saying exactly the right thing at exactly the right time? I think not. Like all good politicians, Lincoln was instinctive. He knew full well his words would have great import, even though he was scheduled to speak following the greatest orator of the age Edward Everett. The fact that the speech was written on the back of an envelope means little. It’s clear that Lincoln had given a great deal of thought to what he was going to say at this event and how he wanted to say it.

I remember having to memorize this speech in 7th grade. I wonder if kids these days have to memorize anything?

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