Saturday, May 9, 2009

"that the government of the people, by the people and for the people, shall not perish from the earth" ~Abraham Lincoln

The sampler is coming along slowly, but surely -- this photo captures a section of the first 100 words. I'm way behind, as I should have been farther along as if this date. (Sigh) Work, life, stuff -- they're wild cards. I'm getting concerned about making my July 4th deadline, but there's still time to regroup . . . eek, I better get back on schedule!

The next time you write a speech, be sure to study the Gettysburg Address for form and function. Abraham Lincoln uses an age-old oratorical technique called parallel construction -- rhythmic word/sound repetition. The stunning last phrase -- "of the people, by the people and for the people" -- is an example of this technique.

Parallel construction has been around for centuries -- consider Julius Caesar's not-so-humble "Veni, Vidi, Vici" ("I came, I saw, I conquered"). Not a day goes by when we don't see VENI clued as "Part one of Great Caesar's boast" in a crossword puzzle.

And there's . . . Henry David Thoreau's "Simplicity, Simplicity, Simplicity!" Timothy Leary's psychedlic credo of the 1960s, "Turn on, tune in, drop out." (Dopey advice, if you'll pardon the pun.) And Gertrude Stein's mantra-like "rose is a rose is a rose is a rose."

Apropos to the mission of this blog, one of the most notable examples occurred in August 1963 -- 100 years after the Gettysburg Address, when Martin Luther King delivered a speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Dr. King repeated the phrase "I have a dream . . ." so memorably that the speech is referred to as the "I Have A Dream" speech.

And King sustains the momentum. He repeats "Let Freedom Ring . . . " (evoking the image of a ringing Liberty Bell perhaps) that leads to the final parallel construction: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

* * * * *

Happy Mother's Day to all . . . this earlier essay pays tribute through Lincoln's words about his own mother.


  1. And most recently "Yes We Can," which seems to have taken on a life of its own.

  2. Lili, "Yes it has!" Those single-syllable phrases are memorable, like "Live, Love, Laugh."