One hundred fifty one years ago today, one of the world’s greatest speeches was delivered on the grounds of a local cemetery. The speaker, invited to give a few casual remarks following a two-hour oration, chose his words with remarkable skill and delivered them with impeccable power. In the passing of a paltry two minutes, with the mouthing of a mere 272 words, Abraham Lincoln shot down the hallways of history a challenge that continues to echo today. His timeless message reminds us of what our true values should be: honor, sacrifice, democracy, freedom. His timely challenge returns us to a more accurate perspective: this life is not all about ourselves. Rather, much of the life we experience comes from momentum given to us by our ancestors; and much of the life we have to come should be driven by what we will give our descendents.
On that slightly rainy day in Gettysburg, where a crowd of nearly twenty thousand gathered, the speech brought a few rounds of applause and a sense of surprise at its brevity. While some praised the speech, Lincoln himself is said to have considered it a failure and the crowd disappointed. Is this not true today? Do we value the quantity of our words rather than the quality? Have we lost the fine art of the finely selected word, sacrificed on the altar of a gushing overflow of commentary from endless sources, leading to a deadening of the hearing and a dulling of the mind? Among many lessons learned at Gettysburg, I remain challenged to make my words few, my speech meaningful. These are my 272 words.