"On Wednesday night, Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer and actor Sam Waterson (of NBC's 'Law and Order' fame) embarked upon a modern social experiment of sorts: Could today's voters, accustomed to ingesting political messages in 30-second morsels, sit still for a rereading of the 'Right makes might' speech? Could they endure two hours of intricate discourse on an issue that's been dead for generations?It does start a hair slow.
To answer that question, they invited the public back to Cooper Union, where Waterson, who's played Lincoln on television and the stage, would reprise his role as the 16th president. And the public was a willing guinea pig, judging by the long line of hopeful participants that doubled over as it snaked around the stout, brownstone edifice an hour before Wednesday night's free event.
And logic like this, deserves to come back in to use in our modern political discourse:
Much as Lincoln reportedly had, Waterson struggled at first, straining to find his voice and unable to settle on a particular inflection ("It was the adrenaline," Waterson said later). The audience, perhaps stunned by Lincoln's long windup and with no assurances that they were not about to be supremely bored, simply froze.
But as the arguments took shape, carefully knit with strands of irrefutable logic and clever, crowd-pleasing rhetorical devices, the 2004 listeners began to stir. At first it offered murmurs and timid laughter at the subtle barbs and fitting parables. But ultimately, as Lincoln's assertions were galvanized one by one, Waterson was forced to stop several times, yielding to shouts of approval and rousing applause.
"But you will not abide the election of a Republican president! In that supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union; and then, you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us! That is cool. A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, 'Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!"'Watching this, I developed a greater respect for Lincoln's oratory capabilities, especially speech writing and debate,and Sam Waterson as a performer.
As long as there is a forum in which questions can be asked by men and women who do not stand in awe of a chief executive and one can speak as long as one's feet will allow one to stand, the liberties of the American people will be secure.On this I totally agree w/ Sen Byrd, we must maintain three strong, independent branches of government, or the Great American Experiment will pass into ignomy. My fear is that congress may have ceded to much power to the executive branch already. They look out of control to me.