Monday, October 22, 2012

Lincoln's Voice

Many of my readers know that I’m a huge admirer of Abraham Lincoln, whose brilliance as a communicator I’ve written about in a number of my blogs including, recently, “What do Socrates and Lincoln Have in Common?” and “Everyone Likes a Compliment.”

So you can imagine my delight when I read that Steven Spielberg was directing a film called “LINCOLN,” starring the talented actor, Daniel Day-Lewis, as the Civil War president in the months before his assassination. The film, which debuts in November, is based, in part, on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s best-selling book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.

Entertainment Weekly featured a “first look” at Day-Lewis in his role and I never expected such a remarkable likeness!

However, when I watched a trailer for the film, I was a bit disconcerted by Lincoln’s voice: it was pitched much higher than I expected and he spoke with a distinct Kentucky accent. I know that Day-Lewis is renowned for fully immersing himself in the characters he plays, but somehow I expected that this towering figure (the nation’s tallest president, at 6’4”) would have a much deeper voice.

So, I did some research and discovered that, according to Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer One of the only things that can be said with certainty is that Lincoln was a tenor.”

Holzer reports that people who attended Lincoln’s speaking tours all said that, “for the first ten minutes, I couldn’t believe the way he looked, the way he sounded, his accent. But after ten minutes, the flash of his eyes, the ease of his presentation overcame all doubts, and I was enraptured.”

Clearly, Lincoln was a man who fully understood not only the art of writing but also the art of speaking. He converted potentially problematic qualities into powerful assets as he connected with his stakeholders … and thus helped change the course of American history.

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