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Lincoln - Tasks

A set of tasks based on the article about Abraham Lincoln.

Read the article about Abraham Lincoln and watch the film trailer Abraham Lincoln - An Icon?

Steven Spielberg's film about the 16th American President was released in January 2013. What makes people line up to see a film about Abraham Lincoln almost 150 years after his death? You might find out by doing these tasks.

Writing

Write a paragraph where you explain why Lincoln became an icon and what makes people rush to the cinema to see a film about a man that lived 150 years ago. Look at the questions in the article. Is there anything you would like to add to explain why he continues to fascinate people?

Rhetorics

Abraham Lincoln was known as an eminent orator, and his speeches and addresses are considered national treasures. Read the speech he delivered after the bloodiest battle in the Civil War in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 1863.

The Gettysburg Address

Four score and seven years* ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived* and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate*, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

*four score and seven years= four multiplied with twenty plus seven=87 *conceived=originated *consecrate=to set apart as sacred *detract=take away

If you want to listen to a performance of the Address, you should follow this link The Gettysburg Address by Johnny Cash

  1. Find information about The Battle of Gettysburg and the Civil War. Describe the rhetorical situation - Kairos (the place and time) in which Abraham Lincoln delivered this speech.
  2. What did Lincoln have to take into consideration when he wrote the speech?
  3. Why is this speech considered to be among the best speeches ever?
  4. Revise the rhetorical concepts - ethos, pathos and logos American Presidents and the Art of Rhetoric and try to give a brief analysis of the speech.

Poetry

Artists no doubt contributed to Abraham Lincoln's iconic status. After the assassination of Lincoln, Walt Whitman wrote this poem:

O Captain! my Captain!

O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.


O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up--for you the flag is flung--for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths--for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You've fallen cold and dead.


My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.


Walt Whitman

  1. Find some background information about Abraham Lincoln, his assassination and Walt Whitman to understand the context in which this poem was written.
  2. Find the metaphors in the poem.
    Who or what is characterised as a:
    • captain?
    • ship and vessel?
    • father?
    • voyage?
      Explore these images.
  3. What is the poet's concern in the long lines? How is this contrasted in the short lines? What is the poet's primary concern here?
  4. This poem might be called an elegy. What is an elegy? And what do you think made Whitman write this poem?

Discuss

1. Do you think Abraham Lincoln would have been a Republican today? Why or why not? Ponder the question before you look up these

clues

The Republicans dominated the political scene from the time of Abraham Lincoln, while the losers in the Civil War, the Southerners, remained loyal to the Democratic Party and their political ideals. Anti-Abolitionism was a considerable part of the Democratic policy. African Americans embraced Lincoln and his Republican Party. After the Big Crash on Wall Street African Americans along with less privileged groups faced poverty and unemployment. This paved the way for a new era for the Democrats and the party gradually left their former beliefs. The Democratic president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and his New Deal policy were welcomed by these groups, but abhorred by the old aristocracy in the South. Whereas the traditional Southern voter now flocked to the Republican Party, African Americans and less privileged groups rushed to the Democrats. The Civil Rights laws in the 1960s ratified by the Democratic president, Lyndon B. Johnson (from the South!), secured African American votes for the Democrats. In the two last elections we have seen that this has not changed. African Americans, the Hispanic minority and women tend to vote for Obama - and the Democratic Party.

2. Read the paragraph about Lincoln's looks and physical appearance.

Lincoln's looks

In our modern media world we know that looks matter, especially if you are going to attract voters. In modern presidential campaigns, which to a great extent are a battle contested in the media, we have seen that appearance is important. A youthful, attractive candidate will pick up more votes. In the late 1850s, a presidential candidate had to meet people and audiences in person and his picture would appear in the papers. Here is how Carl Schurz, a German American, describes his first glimpse of Lincoln; “homely, deeply furrowed, swarthy, haggard face…”, “deep-set, melancholy eyes from time to time illuminated with a merry twinkle”. He goes on: “Something about the man was ugly, even repellent; something else was magnetic, almost irresistible.” (Irish Times, February 6, 2013). This reaction was quite common; Lincoln’s face and appearance aroused strong feelings. Some journalists insisted that he was just too ugly to serve as president, whereas others felt deep affection and sympathy. His looks inspired artists and in particular, cartoonists, who loved making caricatures of his haggard, furrowed face.

  • When electing an American president, looks matter. As we see, Lincoln was no exception. Why do you think looks are so important?
  • Find paintings, caricatures and photos of Abraham Lincoln. When you watch the film or the trailer, do you think Daniel Day-Lewis resembles the original? Few would say that Abraham Lincoln was physically attractive, still, people were fascinated by his looks. Why, do you think?

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