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Video transcript

so we've been talking about the Gettysburg Address which was delivered by Abraham Lincoln on November 19 1863 and as we were saying in the last video it's been about three and a half months since the Battle of Gettysburg when this speech is given and Lincoln himself is not even the headliner at this ceremony of dedicating the cemetery he is just supposed to give a few appropriate remarks while the famous orator Edward Everett gives the really bombastic two hour long speech that is going to rile up the crowd and make everyone understand the importance of the battle and the importance of the cemetery that is being dedicated but somehow the 272 words that Lincoln says here in the Gettysburg Address has become one of the most famous and important pieces of rhetoric in American history so in this video I'd like to just take a little time to read the Gettysburg Address and to interpret it line by line to give a better sense of what it's trying to say and why it's so important alright so let's see if I can do this justice 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 battlefield 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 cannot dedicate we cannot consecrate we cannot 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 wow it gives me chills just reading this and there's just something about Lincoln's oratory the way that he puts things that just rivets you and this is why he was such a great leader and such a great politician because he knew how to use words to his advantage and he knew how to touch people with what he had to say now it's more than a hundred and fifty years later and we still read this and memorize it in school and think about it on kind of a regular basis because we frequently quote the words that he said here so how did this get to be so important let's read it line by line and see what he's really saying alright so 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 all right well this case you're wondering means eighty-seven years forescore score is 20 in fact some of the newspapers that printed the text of this speech just said eighty-seven years ago so why doesn't Lincoln just say eighty-seven well I think this four score and seven years ago has this really strong I would even say like biblical ring right it has this importance and eloquence of oratory so he's already setting the tone to say here in this nation we are measuring time almost biblically like this is a sacred mission and it's been a sacred amount of time since the founding of the nation I think it's really interesting to note that it's only 87 years between 1770s six and 1863 I know this is just basic math but between the founding of the United States and the Civil War when the Union fought for it's very survival was less than a hundred years it's a very short period of time now Lincoln as a young man would have known older men who had fought in the Revolutionary War Andrew Jackson for example so Lincoln starts out by saying that less than a hundred years ago the United States was founded and it was founded on this principle that all men are created equal now if you contrast that with the system of slavery which the south is fighting to preserve that is definitely an in Contra distinction to the concept that all men are created equal so Lincoln reminds his audience immediately that the founding principles of the United States were equality and Liberty all right so he moves on to say now we are engaged in a great Civil War testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure so in less than a hundred years the idea that held the United States together is now being tested and he's reminding people that the world is watching they're saying all right there's this upstart democracy in the Americas saying that monarchy which has been the rule of Europe for more than a thousand years is a silly proposition and they can do better well now look at them they're fighting a civil war because some folks want to be the masters of others and some folks don't think that's all right so in a way what Lincoln is reminding people here is that they're engaged in this grand experiment right this grand experiment of liberty and equality where no one is the master of anyone else where any person like Abraham Lincoln born in a log cabin less than a year of school and his entire life can become president so if the democracy of the United States fails if this Union falls apart then it will have proved the doubters right that democracy doesn't work and then he continues we are met on great battlefield of that war we've 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 I think there are two important things here so he talks about the concept of a nation and this is really interesting because prior to the Civil War it was frequent that people might say things like these United States right the idea that the states are the most prominent portion of the country and that the individual states plural were together in a union that was secondary to the idea of statehood but midway through the war Lincoln starts to use the word nation more and more and afterwards it will always be known as the United States so Lincoln is signaling here that this is one united nation not just a collection of States and that is what the American forces are fighting for that is what the forces of the United States are trying to achieve a united nation not a United set of States the other interesting thing here is that he mentions it's altogether fitting and proper that we should do this why wouldn't it be proper to dedicate a cemetery well a lot of people thought that it wasn't proper for Lincoln to be speaking at this ceremony dedication they thought that it was kind of a cheap political maneuvering imagine today if the president went to a soldier's funeral many people might say it's not appropriate for the president to be there because it's just a political opportunity right that you're trying to get votes from somebody else's tragedy and it's kind of ironic because Lincoln's speech here is very sacred very few nariyal whereas Everett's speech was very political saying this was a great battle we have to remember that the Confederates are our enemies but Lincoln's Beach is much gentler much kinder much more appropriate actually to a funeral perhaps than ever it's speech but he feels it necessary to remind people that it is appropriate to gather here together to mark the dedication of this cemetery even though many might decry it as just political grandstanding now I think it's this next paragraph that makes the Gettysburg Address so powerful so let's read it in a larger sense we cannot dedicate we cannot consecrate we cannot 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 so he's drawing attention to the importance of the battlefield dead he says this is not about us it's about them they have sacrificed they have become martyrs for this cause so we cannot consecrate the cemetery they have already consecrated it with their blood and with their sacrifice so he's reminding everyone of the sacrifice and the martyrdom of the battlefield dead now here's the real power of the Gettysburg Address the last couple of sentences let's read them all together 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 now what Lincoln does here is so powerful because it's kind of a rhetorical switcheroo he says we're not here to dedicate the cemetery the cemetary is here to dedicate us men have died here and we must honor their martyrdom we must honor their sacrifice for the experiment of liberty and equality by taking renewed dedication to that cause so come to the battlefield of Gettysburg come to this cemetery and take renewed heart in the mission of continuing democracy continuing equality and continuing to fight for a United States of America and how the rest of those battles play out we'll get to in the next video