272 Words That Changed America

“The battle was less important than the speech” ~ ~Senator Charles Sumner, 1865

If you’ve never heard of Edward Everett, don’t worry you’re not alone.  In November 1963, he was one of two speakers scheduled to dedicate a Civil War cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  Everett spoke for over 2 hours, delivering more than 13,500 words.  The second speaker was Abraham Lincoln, who spoke for only 2 minutes, delivering 272 words.* 

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is now considered one of the greatest speeches in American History.  And it only took 2 minutes!  That is the essence of less is more.  On November 20, Everett wrote to Lincoln: “Permit me also to express my great admiration of the thoughts expressed by you, with such eloquent simplicity & appropriateness, at the consecration of the Cemetery. 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.”

 Do you need 2 hours or 2 minutes to tell your story?  Strive to be Lincoln, not Everett.

*  Source: “Abracadabra Moments, the Opening Line you Should Never Use and 10 More Ways to Sell Ideas” Fast Company, May 20, 2010 by Sam Harrison


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