Tuesday, November 19, 2013
He wasn't the featured speaker; he was asked to make a few "appropriate remarks," perhaps only because his acceptance of an invitation to the event took the organizers by surprise.
The fellow pictured at right was the main attraction at the dedication ceremony. Former Massachusetts Gov. and Senator Edward Everett was a distinguished orator who had also served as the American Ambassador to the Court of St. James (i.e., as Ambassador to Britain) and as American Secretary of State.
As was the fashion at the time, Everett spoke for over two hours at the dedication. When he was done, the President rose to give his little talk.
"The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here," the President said, and the press was inclined to agree, at least with regard to the President's remarks. Almost all the reporters present hated his speech. His remarks were not only too short, in the prevailing view, they were trivial, even silly.
One listener, at least, disagreed. Edward Everett wrote to the President stating, "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."
And the reputation of the President's speech on that occasion has improved considerably since the initial reviews.
The cemetery was at Gettysburg, and the President was Abraham Lincoln.