Posts tagged speeches.

November 19, 1863: Abraham Lincoln delivers the Gettysburg Address.

150 years ago today, Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous 2-minute-long, 260 word speech at the dedication of a soldiers’ cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania - where, in July of the same year, Union and Confederate forces fought the bloodiest battle of the entire war. In his speech, Lincoln affirmed the value of the Union’s struggle in the context of the United States’ founding principles of liberty and equality. Since its delivery, the Gettysburg Address has been absorbed into American culture as a national symbol and as an iconic, defining moment in its history. 

Text of the speech (of which several versions exist):

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends. And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

Washington, D.C. - August 28, 1963

"I’ve Been to the Mountaintop" 

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last speech, delivered the night before his death - April 3, 1968. 

President Eisenhower warns Americans of the dangers of the “military-industrial complex” in his farewell address - January 17, 1961. 

Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and apparent I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense of disappointment. As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war – as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years – I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight.

January 8, 1918: Woodrow Wilson issues his “Fourteen Points”.

Ten months before the end of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson delivered to a joint session of Congress a speech in which he detailed specific points that would provide for a secure and long-lasting peace and not a rebalancing of power that had been the go-to solution for so many past wars. In September of 1917, Wilson set up “the Inquiry”, a group of 150 men that included historians, librarians, professors, geographers, lawyers, and other academics whose research helped the president prepare his plans for this idealistic peace plan. Their research formed the basis of the Fourteen Points, which can be paraphrased as:

1. No secret alliances or agreements between nations.
2. Freedom of the seas during both wartime and peacetime.
3. Lowered or removed economic barriers between nations, which would ideally result in an “equality of trade… among all nations”. 
4. A reduction in “national armaments”.
5. An “absolutely impartial” adjustment of colonial claims to suit the interests of both the colonial powers and colonized populations.
6. The evacuation of Russian territory, and treatment of Russia by foreign nations demonstrative of “their good will… their comprehension of her needs as distinguished from their own interests, and of their intelligent and unselfish sympathy.”
7. The evacuation of Belgian territories.
8. The evacuation of French territories and the restoration to France the territory of Alsace-Lorraine, which had been lost to Prussia in the settlement of the Franco-Prussian War.
9. “
The readjustment of Italian boundaries along clearly recognizable lines of nationality.” 
10. Autonomy for the various people of Austria-Hungary.
11. The evacuation of the Balkans and free access to the sea for Serbia, and guaranteed “political and economic independence and territorial integrity” for these states.
12. Free passage for all nations through the Dardanelles, and protection for non-Turkish people living under Turkish rule.
13. Independence and access to the sea for Poland.
14. The formation of a league of nations “for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.

Reception was mixed. Georges Clemenceau declared, upon hearing of Wilson’s speech (which had been delivered without prior consultation with the United States’ allies) and his “Fourteen Points” that “The good Lord only had ten!” But his points were eventually incorporated into the 1918 armistice that ended the war, because his speech was really the only specific statement of war aims officially issued by leaders on either side. Wilson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize the next year for his efforts. But at the Paris Peace Conference that same year, President Wilson was outmaneuvered, to Germany’s dismay, by his European allies, who demanded that Germany be punished and held responsible for the war and regarded this aim as a higher priority than an American president’s idealistic plans for world peace. Although Wilson arrived at the conference with great purpose, John Maynard Keynes noted that the president was “ill-informed”, “slow and unadaptable”, and “incompetent”. His League of Nations was formed as a result of the conference, but the United States never joined, and it proved useless in preventing the series of aggressions that led to World War II. By then, Wilson’s points and lasting peace were far-off dreams. 

November 19, 1863: Abraham Lincoln delivers the Gettysburg Address.

At Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where the bloodiest battle of the Civil War was fought in July of 1863, Abraham Lincoln delivered a speech regarded as not only one of his greatest speeches, but also one of the most famous speeches in American history. It was five months after the battle and ten months after the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Lincoln’s speech, though the most memorable, was not the main event at Gettysburg that day; the featured orator was Edward Everett, who spoke for over two hours at the dedication of the Gettysburg Soldiers’ National Cemetery. Lincoln, who was diagnosed with a mild case of smallpox following the dedication, delivered a short speech (less than 300 words long) in under three minutes as almost an afterthought. Everett later wrote Lincoln praising the speech, commenting that he would have been glad to have been able to do in two hours what Lincoln did “in two minutes”.  Others were not so effusive in their praise. A Democratic-leaning newspaper called it “silly, flat and dishwatery”.

Full text of the speech:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Only one confirmed photograph of Lincoln at Gettysburg exists.