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October 03, 2011


Mary Jo

Lincoln suffered with his people--in fact, with the whole nation--during the Civil War. I think of the Gettysburg Address as "prose poetry." Its cadence is musical, and it is finely distilled. He spoke from his heart and soul--what an amazing man!


I recall memorizing and reciting the Gettysurg Address for extra credit in the 5th grade. Even at that early age I was struck with both the simplicity of it and the power of its poetry. (And in 5th grade, I was grateful for its brevity.)

Mark Rosewell

I can recall being a young boy in Jacksonville, Illinois, one summer when we drove out to Springfield and saw Lincoln's home, and visited his memorial. My mother bought a small book that contained this speech among others. I spent much of one summer not only memorizing this speech, but learning what it meant. Hearing the first line immediately takes me back.

Jason Zielonka

I had a very classical education (including 5 years of Latin and 3 of Greek), so the Gettysburg Address evokes not only the cadence of the King James Bible; it also recalls the heroic poetry of Virgil and Homer. Lincoln's education may never have included them, but his prose evokes their rhythms.

Many years after high school, I was briefly involved with a Civil War re-enactors' group and privileged, along with 75,000 other re-enactors and 250,000 spectators, to be part of the 140th re-enactment of the Battle of Gettysburg. We slept on the field for 3 nights, in cotton tents, mattresses filled with hay. Reading the speech, in the presence of the sounds of horses, the smell of black powder, the smells of meals being cooked over open fires ... was truly to understand that the cadence of the speech also matched the cadence of life then ... and of the battle itself, when adrenaline slows down the perception of time. I'd recommend anyone visiting the National Cemetery to take a copy of the speech with him/her and read it there ... sacred text and sacred ground together are rare in this world.

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