Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Gettysburg Address: a very non-academic AP Government and Politics Lesson

Hey all. I recently developed a little AP curriculum lesson for an online project and I thought I'd throw it up on the site. Not literally. 
Considered one of the greatest speeches in American history, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is sure to give you all the feels. In this lesson we are going to break down Lincoln’s speech while placing it within the larger context of the United States government and discuss why the Address is still relevant and highly regarded today.  
In A Nutshell: Following the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln attended the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Pennsylvania on November 19, 1863. Asked to speak at the ceremony, Lincoln obliged and delivered a speech that would later solidify him as one of the most brilliant orators in United States history. Lincoln gave profound statements on freedom, equality, preservation of the Union, and governmental purpose. And he did it all in two minutes. (goals)  
The Speech: We don’t know about you, but we think the Gettysburg Address would be more entertaining if it was sung to the tune of Katy Perry's "Firework." The text can be found in the show notes of the video. If a sing-along isn’t your thing, you can find the text version here. This takes only a few minutes to read so have a quick look-see and let’s break it down.  
What Does It All Mean?: Lincoln lost us at “four score.” One score = 20 years. So, 87 years ago. YAY MATH! Lincoln begins the Address by referencing the 1776 Declaration of Independence. You know, that little statement of liberty you may have heard of? While addressing the casualties of the Civil War, Lincoln goes on to assure listeners that soldiers gave their lives to uphold American values, placing particular emphasis on those that uphold the equality of all citizens, and those who do not (ahem, the basis of the Civil War). Arguably the most important line to take away from the Gettysburg Address is that America was founded on the principle that it is a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” This line is imperative to the study of the United States’ government because it reiterates America’s representative democracy. 
Why Should I Care?: The Gettysburg Address can be placed into the larger context of American government. Lincoln is reiterating that the nation can only thrive under a representative democracy. His words serve as a reminder of core American values.  
The Gettysburg Address has remained timeless. The speech has been referenced numerous times throughout history, including by bigwigs Martin Luther King (who referred to it in his 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech), John F. Kennedy, and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. The Constitution of France straight up stole Lincoln’s lines by declaring the Republic of France as a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Lincoln’s words continue to be a reminder of principles that can often fall by the wayside in politics.  
We do however have to disagree with one thing Lincoln said: “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here…” Oh he was so wrong.  
Free Response Questions: Give us a sentence or two that addresses the question prompt. Remember, there is more than one right answer. 
· Name another moment in US government or political history that the Gettysburg Address could pertain to. 
· Why did Lincoln believe the Civil War was necessary to preserve the survival of America? 
· Although Lincoln doesn’t directly mention the emancipation of American slaves, how does the liberation adhere to a representative democracy? 
· Why was the Gettysburg Address a defining moment for the United States government? 
· What is Lincoln asking of his listeners when he says “we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us”?  
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