The Gettysburg Address is the most well-known political speech ever written in the English language. This means almost everyone has heard it at least once, but it also means the speech is like a popular song that’s so overplayed it becomes background noise.

We can start rescuing the Gettysburg Address from the consequences of its ubiquity by considering its original context. President Abraham Lincoln delivered his two-minute opus on November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery, and it reads best as an elegy for the soldiers who fought there.

McWhirter is the Lincoln Historian at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. The ALPLM’s edition of the Gettysburg Address will be on display through Nov. 28. More information about the document can be found at Follow the ALPLM on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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