A journalism instructor on Lincoln the writer

Kevin Coyne, who teaches at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, discusses the lessons writers should learn from Lincoln:

Writing doesn’t get much clearer than the Gettysburg Address, the first thing I ask my students to read. It’s barely a third of the length of an op-ed column. As Garry Wills has memorably pointed out, Lincoln is reimagining America from the very first line, by taking Jefferson’s words to heart in a way that the slaveholding Jefferson himself did not, and by elevating the Declaration of Independence, with its promise that “all men are created equal,” above the Constitution, which reneges on that promise, as the defining document of our nation. If you’re going to ask a boy from Maine to die fighting a boy from Georgia in a field in Pennsylvania, you’d better be clear on why, and he was.


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