For your final assignment of the semester, I will ask that you write a rhetorical analysis of Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.” I have provided you with a copy of that very famous, and very short, speech below. I’ve chosen to assign this speech by Lincoln as I find it to be one of the most powerful, and yet succinct, speeches ever delivered at a crucial moment in history.
The occasion of Lincoln’s speech was in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg during the height of the American Civil War, July 2, 3, 4, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had been issued on January 1, 1863, freeing all slaves and granting those men/women all of the rights granted to American citizens. The Battle of Gettysburg was brutal and horrific, but is often noted as the turning point in the American Civil War.
I’m asking you to look at this speech and write a short rhetorical analysis as I believe we’re currently living through another form of Civil War in America. In the midst of the Covid-19 epidemic, we find our nation struggling anew with issues like individual rights, economic freedom, and race. This epidemic has been politicized and there have been many moments when, like the American Civil War, brothers and sisters have found themselves in battle against each other, engaging in a fight that seems unnecessary (at least to myself) at a time when the very foundation of the great American Experiment of democracy is being challenged. You may use research for this analysis if you like. However, your work should be primarily your own. You’re living in unprecedented times, and your reaction to all of the issues occurring in the present are fair game for this assignment.
Lincoln’s speech is short and is an attempt to bind the nation’s wounds in the midst of a bitter conflict that is tearing the very soul of the nation apart at that moment. Does that situation sound familiar? Your analysis should be about 600-800 words (three to four double-spaced typed pages). You should feel free to draw connections to our present circumstances in America.
It is due on May 20, 2022 at 6pm. Good luck!
“Gettysburg Address” by Abraham Lincoln
Four score and seven years ago our fathers 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 that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
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