272 Words

Re-posted today in honor of the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s delivery of the Gettysburg Address.

How many words does it take to say what really needs to be said? (14)

I am preparing for a number of talks and I find myself swimming in slides, quotes, stories, anecdotes and nuggets of information just so good that I can’t possibly exclude them from my talk. Or can I? I am struck by how challenging it is to get really clear and to present that clarity with an exactitude that is refreshing and compelling in a world of too many words and too little meaning. I want to say exactly what I want to say with an economy of words and supporting evidence that is both significant, inspiring and powerful while it is also simple, elegant and concise. (120)

In the Gettysburg Address Abraham Lincoln accomplished what so few before or since have managed to do. He articulated the events and meaning of the day in both a deeply personal and universally powerful manner and he said it all under two minutes and in only 272 words. Lincoln was masterful. He met his moment with precision, wisdom and humility. The featured speaker for the dedication spoke for two hours. Who was he? What did he say? (197)

What Lincoln gave us was the essential truth. He didn’t try to say it all or do it all. He didn’t need to. It was neither the time nor the place. He said what mattered most when it mattered most. (237)

I look at my slides. I review my notes. I consider my experiences. It can all be boiled down. I ask myself: how much simpler? How much clearer? What really matters? What is my essence? (272)

© 2010 David Berry

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