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Here’s a short lesson we can learn from Abraham Lincoln’s speaking style.

His speaking style was earnest, honest, simple, and logically clear as crystal. Plus his speeches avoided extremes. For example, he had an amazing ability to make a point by telling stories and using vivid metaphors.

On page 233 of the book Team of Rivals, Lincoln gave this speech about accepting slavery while stopping it from spreading:

If I saw a venomous snake crawling in the road any man would say I should seize the nearest stick and kill it. However, if I found that snake in bed with my children, that would be a different question. I might hurt the children more than the snake and the snake could bite them.

But if there was a bed that was newly made, and I was to take my children to this bed and someone proposed to me to take a batch of young snakes along with my children… well there is no question on how I ought to decide!

The new territories are the newly made bed to which our children are to go and it lies with our nation to say whether they should have snakes mixed up with them or not.

This snake metaphor showed that slavery should be protected where it legally existed but at the same time Lincoln used a mother’s instinct to protect her own child to show that slavery should not spread into the future U.S. generations.

For us, whenever we give a speech, a good question to keep in mind is “What’s a metaphor I can relate this topic to?” 

To listen to a reading of Lincoln’s life, click here.

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