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Abraham Lincoln. Library of Congress, Words and Deeds in American History Collection Alternate: The first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation before the cabinet

[Detail] The first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation

Public Speaking

Many of Lincoln's works were written to be delivered to a live audience and are best appreciated by reading them aloud. Search on Abraham Lincoln speech and Abraham Lincoln address for a variety of works including Lincoln's speech on the Mexican War, an early speech supporting Taylor for President, a speech Lincoln wrote for a Union meeting, the Gettysburg address, and the first and second inaugural addresses.

Compare two or more of Lincoln's speeches and select one to read aloud.

  • Who was the audience for each speech? How could Lincoln have expected the audience to feel about the issues he would be speaking about?
  • What were Lincoln's goals in addressing his audience? What techniques did he use to achieve those goals?
  • Where was the speech held? What was the event or occasion?
  • What does Lincoln's underlining suggest about the meaning of his words and how they should be read?
  • What does Lincoln's choice of language suggest about the tone of the speech?
  • How does Lincoln's grammar affect the reading of a speech? For example, what is the difference between saying, as Lincoln did in his second inaugural address, "Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray" and saying "We fondly hope and fervently pray?"
  • What role did Lincoln's speeches play in his life and career? What role did they play in the nation's history, culture, and literary tradition?
  • How has the presentation and power of public speeches changed since Lincoln's time?