Abraham Lincoln: The Gettysburg Address
Abraham Lincoln: The Gettysburg Address
There are a few ways to present ideas in a speech. Placing them in order, especially with events, is called sequential listing. Lincoln does this when he starts with the past. He then refers to the ongoing civil war before looking to the future of the country. Placing them together for contrast in an argument is a type of comparative style. The Gettysburg Address contrasts the living and the dead, for example. Speeches may also describe the reasons behind events, then the results. Using those facts is the cause-and-effect way of arranging information. Lincoln does this when he ties being “engaged in a great civil war” with “all men are created equal.” He argues that the war cannot be avoided if the United States stands for equality.
Abraham Lincoln: The Gettysburg Address is part of Crabtree’s new series “Deconstructing Powerful Speeches”. Like the other books in the series, Abraham Lincoln: The Gettysburg Address begins by establishing the social and political context of the time of the speech. The American Civil War began in 1861 and ended in 1865. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered what is probably his most famous speech, The Gettysburg Address.
All four books in the “Deconstructing Powerful Speeches” series are written by the same author, Rebecca Sjonger, and follow the same format. Abraham Lincoln: The Gettysburg Address includes a Table of Contents, bibliography with references listed for each chapter, additional resources listed in “Learning More”, and an index. Although the book is about a famous historic figure, the focus of the book is on how a powerful and persuasive speech is written and delivered. The chapter titles reflect this focus: “Persuasive Primary Sources”; “Words and Meaning”; “Analyzing Perspectives”; and “Influences Then and Now”.
The text is well-written and well-supported by historic black and white photos, drawings, historic posters, and modern day colour photos.
Unfortunately, Abraham Lincoln: The Gettysburg Address is not as relevant to Canadian students as it might have been. Although Abraham Lincoln is an important figure in the fight for equality, (although it is clear from the material in the book that he was not anti-slavery), there is no connection to Canadian history included in this book. This oversight greatly reduces the value of this book in a Canadian school.
Abraham Lincoln: The Gettysburg Address ends with an excerpt from a speech given by American President Barack Obama to mark the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. Obama modelled his speech on Lincoln’s address.
…I linger on these few words that have helped define our American experiment: ‘a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal’…even a self-evident truth was not self-executing; that blood drawn by the lash was an affront to our idealism; that blood drawn by the sword was in painful service to those same ideals. He understood…it is through the accumulated toil and sacrifice of ordinary men and women – those like the soldiers who consecrated that battlefield - that this country is built, and freedom preserved…it falls to each generation, collectively, to share in that toil and sacrifice. Through cold war and world war, through industrial revolutions and technological transformations, through movements for civil rights and women’s right and workers’ rights and gay rights, we have. At times, social and economic changes have strained our union. But Lincoln’s words give us confidence that whatever trials await us, this nation and the freedom we cherish can, and shall, prevail.
Sidebars to this and other speech excerpts include explanations for words that are highlighted. For example, “blood drawn by the sword” means “During battle in the American Civil War”, and “cold war” is explained as “Refers to conflict between the United States and U.S.S.R. that lasted from 1945 to 1991”.
Purchase this book if your goal is to enhance your resources on persuasive speech writing and public speaking. Learning to understand strategies of persuasive arguments is important to today’s students who are constantly exposed to and manipulated by persuasive marketing and social media content. Without a good understanding of how they are being manipulated, some students may become victims of unscrupulous ‘persuasion’. However, Abraham Lincoln: The Gettysburg Address could have been so much more useful in Canadian schools if it was more comprehensive in its historical content. If your budget is limited, you may prefer to purchase other books in this series.
Suzanne Pierson, a former teacher-librarian, is currently instructing Library courses at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.