The Self-Evident Truth Series by Michael Clay Thompson is an extraordinarily useful series that overlaps the disciplines of Language Arts, Social Studies, and History, as well as Gifted programs. The books are also a fascinating “read” in themselves. These books not only provide important insights into American history and culture, but they also show students the pay off for the intensive study of language: how grammar is truly a “magic lens” into thought; how word choice can be a matter of meter; and how authors use vocabulary and other poetic devices to establish meaning and impact.
Lincoln's Ten Sentences is the second study in the Self-Evident Truth Series and is a classic Thompson tour de force.
Four months after the Battle of Gettysburg, on that bloody battleground, a solemn ceremony was held to dedicate for the National Soldiers’ Cemetery the seventeen acres where Confederate and Union soldiers had fought and lost their lives in the battle that decided the unity of the United States. The North’s most scholarly and illustrious orator, Edward Everett was to give the major address, sharing the platform with Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth President of the United States, who had been invited to formally set apart the grounds for their sacred use "by a few appropriate remarks after the oration".
Compared to the esteemed Everett, the press had been portraying Lincoln as a “baboon”, and having an “untutored” mind. In fact, Lincoln’s formal education totaled only one year.
Lincoln’s address lasted somewhat over a minute. He used only ten sentences, 267 words. Although it was not a poem, he used poetic devices to increase the power of his words. So perfect was Lincoln’s speech, that the great orator Everett, who was a past U.S. Senator, President of Harvard, and Phi Beta Kappa poet, requested a copy of it from Lincoln saying, “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.”
In Lincoln’s Ten Sentences, Michael Clay Thompson thoroughly explicates the noble “Gettysburg Address,” and introduces the reader to accomplished poet Abraham Lincoln and his use of detail, word sound by controlled vowels and consonants, impact of a spondee, strategic grammar, diction and vocabulary. Lincoln’s choice of words, said and unsaid, repetition of key words, use of words that the common people would understand, use of alliteration, and repetition of the pronoun “we” are all explored.