My favorite part of the Lincoln Memorial is the Gettysburg Address that's etched into the south wall of the Memorial. And I like the Gettysburg Address and the history behind it, particularly because of the back-story that a lot of people don't realize about Abraham Lincoln and how he came to Gettysburg in the first place. Now when Lincoln came to Gettysburg to give his speech on November 19th, 1863, he gave his speech in front of a crowd of approximately 15,000 people. And what a lot of folks don't realize is that he was not the keynote address speaker that day. That fell to a man by the name of Edward Everett. Now Everett was a gentleman, uh, in the mid-19th Century who had done nearly everything that you could possibly do from a political and educational standpoint, except become President of the United States himself. He actually had run as a Vice Presidential candidate and a lesser-known political party of the time, in 1860, that Abraham Lincoln eventually won and became President.
Edward Everett was so influential that he had the original date of the ceremony pushed back almost a month to accommodate his very busy schedule. Lincoln, by comparison, in order to prepare his few appropriate remarks, was given just a few short days.
Can you imagine giving that kind of speech with no amplification in front of a crowd of 15,000 people?
Everett, being the incredible speaker that he was, spoke for two hours glowing reception, incredible applause, and this, under normal circumstances, would have been the crowning achievement of Everett's illustrious career.
Until Lincoln spoke.
His address was just over two minutes long. It was then that Abraham Lincoln reminded the entire nation why the United States needed to come back together again, that all of the men who had fought and died, either on the battlefield at Gettysburg or anywhere else on North or Southern territory, that they should not have died in vain. And that by the end of his speech he basically reminded all of Americans, North and South, that the United States should be whole again and that freedom should prevail.