President Lincoln wasn’t even on the original guest list for the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery. Both he and the war were highly unpopular at the time, given the appalling numbers of casualties and no end in sight. He was eventually invited by the Committee organizing the event to participate, but was not, however, the featured speaker – that honor went to another politician, Edward Everett. Instead, Lincoln was only asked to dedicate the cemetery with “a few appropriate remarks,” and was sandwiched between two songs performed for the audience.
While Everett’s speech lasted two hours, Lincoln’s lasted only two minutes. Whereas Everett’s speech was well received at the time, Lincoln’s received mixed reviews. Today, of course, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address has become his most memorable and remarkable speech. In those two short minutes, Lincoln spoke eloquently and powerfully about the necessity of the struggle for liberty, the sacrifice made by the soldiers, and the need to continue the war to its conclusion to ensure the survival of the Republic. It is a speech that remains poignant, moving, and compelling.
This activity engages students in deciphering and analyzing this iconic speech. Students will translate the entire speech from its original language into more easily accessible modern English, and then use those translations as the basis for a discussion of Lincoln’s meaning.
*the entire speech, broken up into easily digestible excerpts on a worksheet;
*an answer guide to the worksheet
Materials are provided in one zip file.
This activity is part of a complete and comprehensive unit
on the Civil War and Reconstruction.
I’ve used this activity with my 8th grade class for years, and it never fails to engage and interest students.
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