Abraham Lincoln – Pop Culture and Public Speaking

I was going through my Pinterest feed and saw the Gettysburg Address(1863). While I had not read it in some time, I remain impressed by its brevity, its language and its remarkable message.  I have made this document a part of my Pinterest personal “vision board” as an example of a document that has lasting impact on me. Vision boards on Pinterest are a topic I will cover in a future blog.  Briefly, they are a collection of images that reflect your personal vision and brand.

Soon after placing the Gettysburg Address on my vision board, I saw a commercial online for the movie Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.  Later in the week I saw another movie listed on Netflix for Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies. I also saw Lincoln’s likeness in a commercial for a scratch-off lottery the same week.  The biggest news on Lincoln is the Steven Spielberg movie slated for release on November 9, 2012 staring Daniel Day Lewis.  The trailer, one of the top on YouTube, is worth a watch.  The Civil War era is a period that is very interesting to me so this is a movie I will be checking out.


Vampire and zombie hunting are formidable skills. I didn’t know that our 16th president had so many talents and curious attributes. It’s interesting how pop culture is presenting the image of Lincoln. I wonder how this will impact the younger generation’s perception of such an important historical figure?  Will Spielberg’s interpretation have an impact?

The way people and elected officials communicated during Lincoln’s time was different, but messaging and clarity remain as important today as it was in the 1800s. Without question, writing well is essential in communicating effectively and for developing marketing messages that resonate in the business world. According to James DeKoven of Brand Communications, it is a pity when a company has “spent a lot of time and money on their sales and marketing plans, but they didn’t value the importance of their communications. Somehow, they forgot the primary goal of marketing collateral: to generate immediate interest in their products or services.”

The way that messages are conveyed in writing or verbally, and how others interpret words is crucial.  Lincoln chose the words and phrases of the Gettysburg Address carefully. It was a short speech, but it contained all the points he wanted to convey and it evoked strong emotions. Lincoln was on and off the stage quickly, unlike Edward Everett who spoke for two hours before him, orators frequently spoke much longer than they do today.

Interestingly, “Edward Everett was quick to acknowledge the greatness of Lincoln’s brief speech. The day after the ceremony, he wrote to the president praising the ‘eloquent simplicity and appropriateness’ of his remarks. ‘I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.’ Lincoln sent an immediate and gracious response: ‘In our respective parts yesterday, you could not have been excused to make a short address, nor I a long one. I am pleased to know that, in your judgment, the little that I did say was not entirely a failure.’ ”

Lincoln’s speech was two minutes, and was 10 sentences (or 272 words) long. But it was powerful. The advice is to capture the key emotions and ideas you want to convey in as little time as possible. If you can deliver a short, concise speech your audience will listen, and appreciate your brevity. According to 10 Tips from Lincoln on Writing a Kick-ass Speech”

While the style of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and other speeches seem to fit the style of the short blogs and brief messages we see posted nowadays, most would agree that blogs today, as far as content and flow, fall short of Lincoln’s writings.

Speaking, in public and on video, has emerged as a key selling tool for businesses and personal branding. It seems everyone in marketing mode has a LinkedIn profile and is an expert speaker. They may be speakers, but are they true professionals or experts?  Most are not. Lincoln, from the time of the Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858 and throughout his presidency, was regarded as a great and eloquent speaker. The ability of a speaker to capture the attention of an audience and deliver a thoughtful, well prepared speech does count for something. The current presidential campaign and convention activities have been full of media commentary on content, quality and delivery of speeches.

It is wise to familiarize yourself with “The Basic Structure of a Speech.”  “Making an outline for a speech is a way to organize your ideas logically and clearly. Without making an outline your speech will probably lack structure, and so be difficult to understand. By using a presentation outline, you can “see” the structure of your speech. In addition, It can also serve as your speaking script.”

Everyone has their own approach for speaking and a system for picking topics. Speaking comes naturally to some people while others dread it.  Practice is invaluable and staying on message is important. When preparing to speak have a clear goal for your presentation, know your audience and be well prepared.

“Effective communication is based on trust, and if we don’t trust the speaker, we’re not going to listen to their words. Trust begins with eye contact because we need to see the person’s face to evaluate if they are being deceitful or not. In fact, when we are being watched, cooperation increases. When we are not being watched, people tend to act more selfishly, with greater dishonesty.”

Website Psychology Today: “Words Can Change Your Brain” article “The 8 Key Elements of Highly Effective Speech…and why your words barely matter!” Published on July 10, 2012 by Mark Waldman and Andrew Newberg, M.D. in the 8 key elements of effective speech.

Lincoln knew his audience and prepared for public debates and addresses, each were different in nature, but he set his goals.  He made an impression; he was liked, remembered and trusted. He won election to two- terms as president during our nation’s most difficult era. Would he have been able to create viral videos on YouTube, attract friends on Facebook and become an influencer on Twitter?  My answer is yes.  He understood his audience and had a clear goal.  The methods for getting messages across are different today, but Lincoln would have been able to adapt and without doubt achieve success.


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