In 1863, the sixteenth President of the United States found himself engulfed by a horrific civil war and in leading his people to victory, Abraham Lincoln found himself in a predicament that required a well thought out motivational presentation. He found that opportunity with the address at Gettysburg. President Lincoln knew his people were dissatisfied with the loss of so many comrades and knew there must be a way he could prove that the lives of so many fallen soldiers, husbands, and sons were worth the efforts to restore the land of the free. The statement made in the Gettysburg Address to the people was a perfect example and in essence the embodiment of perfect communication.
The audience of the Gettysburg Address was the people of the nation who had lost the company of thousands of fellow countrymen. Many people related to the deceased in many ways, be it spouse, child, parent, cousin, or any other relationship one may have with another, the community felt a direct blow with the loss of so many. The leader of the nation with so many fallen soldiers, Abraham Lincoln knew his people were frustrated with the three year old war.
Abraham Lincoln came into office as President of the United States of America on March 4, 1861. During the inauguration President Lincoln attempted to prevent a major eruption of conflict by telling the people he had no intention of ending slavery and he hoped to resolve the countrywide predicament without struggle. However there was insecurity in the hearts of the leaders in the southern states. Followed by the bombardment of federal forts the southern states had declared war on the federal government, fearing a conspiracy the leaders of the southern states declared secession from the Union. The seceded states formed the Confederate States of America and led a seriously threatening campaign against the United States.
It was that campaign that had led up to the battle of Gettysburg and had left over three thousand soldiers with nowhere to be laid to rest. The local government of Pennsylvania had organized a plan to make an official national cemetery reserved for those that died in the horrific battle that hit so hard on the home of that community. As a special request the Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Gregg Curtin had rallied for the support of the nations leader, President Lincoln to appear and participate in ceremonies that were scheduled for November 19, 1863 to fulfill the indulgences of the people in that community.
The President drafted a speech with great thought and revised the speech in Gettysburg the night before dedication of the cemetery in the home of the man responsible for the purchase of the land selected for the burial grounds, David Wills, David Wills was also the man responsible for inviting President Lincoln to the dedication of the cemetery. With the speech complete and presented to the people in just two minutes, the President “remarked to a friend: ‘That speech won’t scour. It is a flat failure’.”1 But to his surprise the audience was in a state of shock to have heard such comments from the fearless leader.
With the word spreading about the support that the soldiers had from the Commander in Chief the war soon saw a turn in favor for the Union and clearly the President demonstrated effective communication to the people he served. That speech “has become known as one of the supreme masterpieces of eloquence in the English language.”1 Having directly impacted the audience it was meant to connect with, the Gettysburg Address was a clear and understandable message to those loyal to the freedom of the United States. Having been written in such a short time and read aloud in just two minutes the address was thought to have little impact on how the people felt about the pace of the war but the opposite was the reality. With the war continuing in the favor of the union, President Lincoln was re-elected in November 1964 and was assassinated five months later by John Wilkes Booth and a few fellow confederates.
With the Presidency and the Gettysburg Address in history books everywhere Abraham Lincoln will be known as a great leader for all time. One hundred and forty years later, today we still have children everywhere learning about the foundations of America and many of those children partaking in reenactments of that famous Gettysburg speech.
With the message sent to the people and the spirit of a nation being raised enough to re-conquer the land that was so close to being lost, Abraham Lincoln will be known as one of America’s greatest speakers and will be idolized by speakers forever. The Gettysburg Address is a fine example of effective communication because it covered all the key elements. In delivery the speech clearly communicated a message to an audience that comprehended the content and put that message to proper use. Having said that, I can only quote the great Abe Lincoln in saying “these dead shall not have died in vain” 2 and we should take this opportunity of life as we know it and live in thanks for those that have died before us.