Among the most significant speeches of American History is President Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. Given on March 4, 1965, less than six weeks before his assassination, the speech is noted for its short length, powerful message and numerous rhetorical devices. It offers students insight into the complex dilemmas facing a newly elected second-term president, presiding over a war-torn nation. Lincoln’s speech serves two purposes- to reflect on the effects of the Civil War and to envision the future of the country.
The lesson starts with a quick study of the Gettysburg Address, a shorter piece to reinforce the skill of annotation and understand how Lincoln’s use of rhetorical devices achieves the purpose of his earlier speech. Then, the students move on to the Second Inaugural Address and use their annotation skills to complete an essay analyzing Lincoln’s use of rhetorical devices and a class discussion/panel to compare the two speeches.
The lesson includes a multi-day activator, numerous links to film clips and historical photos, audio and video links to both speeches, a memorization activity, practice with annotation and close reading, three graphic organizers, and a specific word study. Two summative assessments include a group panel discussion on an aspect of Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address and an analytical essay that identifies rhetorical devices that achieve Lincoln's purposes of his speech. An answer key for the annotation for Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address is provided.