Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Did we just get Gettysburg'ed?

Granted, President Obama's Second Inaugural Address was not conjoined with a civil war or world war -- events that surely helped to elevate the speeches of Lincoln and FDR to greatness. But was Obama's speech actually one for the ages, too, and we just didn't recognize it? The question is not as ridiculous as it sounds. Today, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is regarded as one of the greatest in American history. But that wasn't the case in 1863 when Honest Abe delivered it. The applause was "scattered and barely polite," according to noted historian Shelby Foote. The next day the Chicago Times (a 19th century version of Fox News) described the address as "silly, flat and dishwatery." Echoing a (weirdly) similar sentiment, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius characterized Obama's speech as "flat, partisan and pedestrian." Plus ├ža change. We'll probably have to wait a century for history's final verdict on Mr. Obama's address. But I have a feeling that its greatness is staring us in the face.

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