Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth President of the United States and author of the Gettysburg Address, has come to be recognized as a creative speaker with an individual and appealing style. He had a perceptive sense of humor and an awareness of human dignity and of the tragedy which occurs with the loss of it. His arguments were logically respectable and responsive to the problems of his times. Although he always retained a directness of statement and feeling which reflected the conditions of his boyhood in Kentucky and Indiana, he was by no means a merely homespun speaker or writer; his poetic phrasing and imagery, Biblical allusions, and rhetorical devices all testify to the fact that he was a well-educated and intelligent man who could speak to any kind of audience in a manner and with the diction appropriate to the occasion.
But Lincoln was not perfect. If it is relevant to state the fact of his imperfection, the reason is that Lincoln’s compassion and understanding and his contribution to the creation of American democracy as we know it have so impressed his fellow citizens that sometimes romantic legends lead us to believe that he never spoke without winning assen and admiration from those whom he addressed. But since he was human and to err is human, and since he was sometimes called upon to speak when there was no great problem to resolve or attack, he was on occasion ineffective in what he said.
Once the legend of Lincoln’s perfection...
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