The 272 words President Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg 150 years ago Tuesday could be considered the great-grandfather of the tweet.
Lincoln crafted his speech with what was then a new technology — the telegraph — in mind. Within 48 hours, the address was printed on the front pages of newspapers in California, achieving his desired effect.
“Lincoln was a master political strategist. He truly understood what it took to get the message out to the people,” Peter Schnall, director and producer of the PBS documentary Lincoln@Gettysburg, told Wired.
“He knew the speech would be telegraphed across the nation; within 48 hours every newspaper as far as California had printed the speech straight on the front page, which is exactly what he was aiming for. He was using the media of communication in different ways than a president had ever done before.”
The Gettysburg Address was a conscious break with traditional forms of American oratory. Edward Everett, the keynote speaker at Gettysburg, spoke for two hours. Lincoln spoke for seven minutes.
Lincoln used ruthless precision while writing the speech to make its meaning clear and authoritative, Gary Wills explains in The Atlantic. It is the modern-day equivalent of turning an essay into a tweet.
Without precedent to guide him, Lincoln embraced the new technology, and deployed it adroitly to rally Union commanders on the front lines in (almost) real-time and communicate his vision to the American public.
“Abraham Lincoln developed the modern model of electronic leadership out of necessity, without text or tutor in the midst of a national calamity,” wrote Tom Wheeler, the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and a historian, who authored the book Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails. “To suggest that Lincoln’s telegrams are somehow ‘lessons’ to be followed in our use of emails would be to demean them, the reason they exist in the first place, and their author. However, I have found that my experience reading Abraham Lincoln’s t-mails has made me more thoughtful in my use of emails.”
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After spending a few minutes re-litigating the Democratic primary, Donald Trump turned his focus to Obamacare. “I inherited a mess, believe me. We also inherited a failed healthcare law that threatens our medical system with absolute and total catastrophe” he said. “I’ve been watching and nobody says it, but Obamacare doesn’t work.” He finished, "so we're going to repeal and replace Obamacare."
Donald Trump lobbed his first attack at the “dishonest media” about a minute into his speech, saying that the media would not appropriately cover the standing ovation that he received. “We are fighting the fake news,” he said, before doubling down on his previous claim that the press is “the enemy of the people." However, he made a distinction, saying that he doesn't think all media is the enemy, just the "fake news."
"The FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump's associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign, multiple US officials briefed on the matter tell CNN. But a White House official said late Thursday that the request was only made after the FBI indicated to the White House it did not believe the reporting to be accurate."