THE AUTHOR AND former presidential speechwriter Peggy Noonan once said: “A speech is poetry: cadence, rhythm, imagery, sweep! A speech reminds us that words, like children, have the power to make dance the dullest beanbag of a heart.”
One can not underestimate the power of a good speech or the effectiveness of a speech’s key line.
With that in mind, over the course of the summer TheJournal.ie is asking some of the most prominent figures in Irish society from politicians to sports stars to nominate their favourite speech of all time and tell us why they like it so much.
Today: Minister for Transport, Transport and Sport and Fine Gael party member Leo Varadkar. He writes:
It’s a hard call to select just one speech – there are so many to choose from. But I believe the speech I love the most was made by America’s first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln. The Gettysburg Address is only about two minutes long. It was given during the civil war at an interment ceremony for the war dead. At the time Lincoln was tired, unwell and in the prodromal stages of smallpox. Everrett, who spoke before him, delivered a two hour rhetorical tour de force. But in two minutes Lincoln defined the Civil War, explained what was at stake and the consequences for the world of a Union defeat.
With these words he described how the Civil War was about the rights of individual States, and the overwhelming need to end the cruelty and barbarity of the slave trade. But he went on to define the Civil War as a defence of the philosophy of government based on democracy, humanity and liberty. These were American values at their best which would go on to change the world.
A few months later, the war won, Lincoln paid the ultimate price and was assassinated in Forde’s Theatre. Consistently and to this day, American scholars and citizens still rank Lincoln as first among their Presidents. Whenever I have the occasion to visit Washington DC, I always try to visit to the Lincoln memorial and read the Gettysburg Address emblazoned in raised letters across the wall.
‘Four score and seven years ago our forefathers 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 any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure …… and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.’
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States serving from 1861 until 1865, when he was assassinated. Perhaps the most famous battle of the Civil War took place at Gettysburg in 1863. President Lincoln went to Gettysburg to speak at the dedication of the new cemetery for the Union war dead. (AP Photo)