ABRAHAM LINCOLN: Legendary Public Speaker & Inspirational Leader
“The mark of a great leader is his ability to walk the talk, not just talk the talk.”
Seven score and thirteen years ago, Abraham Lincoln created history by delivering arguably the best speech of all time. The Gettysburg Address still remains the most riveting piece of oratory not only for its brevity but also for its resonance and message. His words as a public speaker, writer, debater, and conversationalist continue to enthrall, entertain and educate us to this date. Abraham Lincoln’s journey from an ordinary boy who grew up on a farm in Kentucky to an extraordinary public speaker and America’s greatest president is replete with triumphs and tribulations. Most of the aspiring public speakers can draw important lessons from this inspiring journey.
As a young boy, Abraham Lincoln had less than a year of formal schooling but he cultivated a habit of reading and revisiting small collection of books. He became a self-taught expert and developed mastery of language and expression over the years. His flair for story-telling made him a popular figure and he often practiced public speaking by gathering his friends around and addressing them. He worked as postmaster, store manager and did various odd jobs before becoming a lawyer. While studying law, he organized story-telling contests in the evening to hone his public speaking skills. Despite adversities on the personal and professional front, Abraham Lincoln continued on the path to becoming articulate speaker by developing self-discipline and sincerity as his signature strengths. As a lawyer, he developed panache for putting forth cogent and convincing arguments using lucid language. By studying works of William Shakespeare, he learned valuable lessons in rhetoric and speechwriting.
After a stint as a lawyer, he decided to enter the political arena and got elected to state legislature. Lincoln recognized the power of words and used it masterfully to put forward his point of view in political debates. During his early political career, he was characterized as brash and assertive one who used scathing criticism and ridicule to reduce his opponent to rubble. As an aspiring politician, he did experience the bitter taste of failure on several occasions but he persevered despite setbacks. Later in his political life, he used words for the greater cause and learned the art of understanding sensitivities of the audience and his opponents. He emerged on the national political scene when he pleaded for the abolition of slavery through his stirring speeches. He became president when the country was on the cusp of civil war. It was an era of great social upheaval and political tumult. And it was his public speaking skills that stood him in good stead in that chaotic period and brought hope to people that war-ravaged country would soon rise again as one unified nation. Amid gore of battle, his Gettysburg Speech was singular “monumental act of brilliance’ that changed the course of events and the battle itself became less significant than the speech. Through his speeches and letters, he tactfully dealt with all the criticisms leveled against him and show the dogged determination to rebuild a nation from the ashes of civil war. Lincoln advocated that the edifice of the new nation should be based on tenets of equality, liberty, and justice. The United States of America as we know it today was crafted by vision and zeal of this great political leader and his super human skills played a significant role in reframing the future.
The finest speech ended with these lines:-
“…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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