UPI Feature

"I Have a Dream" 50th Anniversary: The 25 greatest speeches in American history

On the annivesary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s seminal speech, we look back at some of the most important moments in spoken American history. While it is almost impossible to objectively quantify the "importance" of a speech, we have tried to compile a list of events where the personality of the speaker, the circumstances of the time and the language of their address came together to create a moment that stands the test of time.

2. Abraham Lincoln: Gettysburg Address

Gettysburg, Pa. -- November 19, 1863

The only confirmed photo of Abraham Lincoln, center and circled, taken at Gettysburg, some three hours before the speech.

The middle of the Civil War, four months after the bloodiest battle in U.S. history, President Lincoln came to the the battlefield. 

Lincoln spoke for just more than two minutes, intended just to be a "few appropriate remarks." He followed the former Sen. Edward Everett, whose two-hour remarks were supposed to be the highlight of the afternoon, a dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery.

In 10 sentences, Lincoln was able to frame the Civil War as a existential struggle for the soul of the nation and for human equality. 

Lincoln's opening, "Four score and seven years ago," was in fact referenced in Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech a century later.

 

 

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