Browse Topics



Lincoln's Other Great Speech
New Book Highlights Lincoln's Healing Words as War Nears End

Listen Listen to Lisa Simeone's interview with author Ronald White about Lincoln's second inaugural speech.

First page of Lincoln speech

First page of Lincoln's second inaugural address -- in pencil at top, Lincoln scrawled in the words "Fellow Countrymen."
Click to expand:

photo gallery Page 1

photo gallery Page 2

photo gallery Page 3

photo gallery Page 4

Feb. 17, 2002 -- On the evening before President's Day, Weekend All Things Considered examines what many historians consider one of the greatest presidential speeches -- a speech that poet Carl Sandburg described as the "Great American Poem."

On March 4, 1865, from the steps of the Capitol, Abraham Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address. It was short --- just 703 words --- and plain, with 500 of those words just one syllable. But it contained one of Lincoln's greatest lines, when he called on Americans to proceed from the Civil War "with malice toward none, with charity for all."

Ronald White, the author of Lincoln's Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural, exploring the speech and its impact, talked about Lincoln with Lisa Simeone of Weekend All Things Considered.

White points out a peculiar part of the speech, given on a blustery day in April as the Civil War was drawing to a close: Lincoln would not discuss the progress of the war or anticipate victory:

"The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured."

It was also the last speech he delivered before his assassination.

Other Resources

• Ronald White is currently dean and professor of American religious history at San Francisco Theological Seminary.

Simon & Shuster is the publisher of White's book -- ISBN: 0-743-21298-3

Full text of the address at the Atlantic Online.