Based in Sydney, Australia, Foundry is a blog by Rebecca Thao. Her posts explore modern architecture through photos and quotes by influential architects, engineers, and artists.

What We Miss About the Gettysburg Address

Written and delivered in 1864 by President Abraham Lincoln, the Gettysburg Address is an often quoted and recited piece of history. At 272 words long, the speech ironically states, "the world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here". 150 years later, little could be further from the truth. At Lincoln's eulogy, then senator Charles Sumner declared, "the battle itself was less important than the speech." Bold words considering the massive bloodshed and high cost of that battle.

There is a key piece, though, that I think is often missed. Nearly everyone knows who delivered the Gettysburg address, yet very few people know who else spoke that day. In fact, President Lincoln was not the featured speaker. Before Lincoln took the stage, Harvard University president Edward Everett gave the primary speech. In contrast to Lincoln's 272 word speech that took 2 minutes to deliver, Everett spoke for 2 hours using nearly 13,000 words. The next day, after the address, Everett wrote to Lincoln stating, 

"I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes."

After 150 years, the unassuming, simple, concrete, profound ideas of Lincoln live on. The complex, academic, embellished, words of the Harvard president do not. And so we see one more key learning from the Gettysburg address: simple, profound, concrete, statements stick.


Maybe you need to simplify your message.

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