It was the greatest speech ever given in American history: Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address at the dedication ceremonies at Gettysburg, given on November 19, 1963. The speaker before Lincoln, Edward Everett, a very famous orator in his own right, droned on for over 2 hours. After the respectful — and perhaps thankful — applause upon the conclusion of Everett’s speech, Lincoln took the podium. His speech lasted less than 2 minutes. When it ended, there was dead silence from the massive audience that had assembled to hear the speeches and pay their respects at Gettysburg. There was dead silence because no one realized the speech, so brief and to the point, had actually ended. Slowly there was hesitant clapping from the audience. This — silence and confusion — was the immediate and ironic response to the greatest speech ever given in American history. Of course, all the Northern newspapers picked it up for their next edition, and when those 272 words were actually read by the public, an immense reaction took place that reverberates to this day. Such is the power of the printed word.
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