The Gettysburg Address is a pivotal moment in the history of the United States. President Abraham Lincoln delivered the brief but momentous speech during one of America’s darkest periods, just a few months after the bloodiest battle of America’s bloodiest war. Army War College Professor Doug Douds explains in a new Prager University video how the speech helped restore the “enduring national values” of a war-torn and divided America.
“President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address is one of the most famous speeches ever given. It is stunning in its brevity: ten sentences, 272 words, and delivered in just over two minutes … few have said more with less,” says Douds.
“Lincoln delivered the address on November 19, 1863,” Douds explains. “He was in Gettysburg to dedicate a national military cemetery to the Union soldiers who fell at the Battle of Gettysburg four months earlier. The North’s victory here was one of the pivotal battles of the American Civil War.”
The primary reason Lincoln’s speech resonates so strongly, Douds suggests, is that the president reiterates in a concise and profound manner the “enduring national values” expressed in the Declaration of Independence.
“Lincoln goes back in time, not to the signing of the Constitution, but to the Declaration of Independence. The Constitution, in forming our government, was the product of many compromises … most notably, slavery. In contrast, the Declaration of Independence declares our enduring national values. In one sentence, Lincoln summarizes the American project: liberty for all and equality of all,” says Douds.
“Lincoln’s assertion is two-fold. First, the United States is unique. No nation was ever founded on a commitment to liberty and equality. And the Civil War was a trial to see if a nation based on such lofty ideals could survive,” he says.
Watch the video below: