Tuesday, November 19, 2013

All speeches can be shorter

150 years ago today Abraham Lincoln gave his famous address at Gettysburg.

It's probably the most sophisticated bit of mass communication in history. It took him less than two minutes to deliver. Quite a few people missed it because they were relieving themselves, after having sat still for the previous speaker Edward Everett, who talked for two hours.

Nobody remembers a word Everett said.

Millions of people remember every word Lincoln said.

Which goes to show, everything can be shorter.


  1. Except possibly the tracks on Rubber Soul, which - bar You Won't See Me - are all under 2m 45s...

    (see Hepworth passim)

  2. Edward Everett was the featured speaker - one of the most famous speakers of his time. People in the crowd had travelled specifically to hear him speak. Lincoln was essentially a support act (although being president he got to go on after the headliner).

    Unfortunately he used the florid formal style popular at the time and it's virtually unreadable today (to me at least). And not many people can remember a 2 hour speech.

  3. Presumably most people in the crowd would have been hard pressed to hear anything.

  4. "Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America," by Garry Wills, is a wonderful book. It goes into great detail about the day, and about the different cultural currents Everett and Lincoln represented.