Phi Beta Cons

Re: College Freshmen

Yes, the Gettysburg Address is overblown.
I don’t want to get into a long discussion over this, so briefly:  The Gettysburg Address is nice and short and direct and hard-hitting, and it contains several memorable phrases. But the sentiment it expresses, while noble, is hardly original. It’s what everyone says about war dead, and rightly so: Ceremonies are moving, but they don’t amount to a hill of beans compared with what these men did, and now it’s up to us to make sure they didn’t die in vain. If other people find the Address inspiring, fine; we all have our favorite passages and quotations. To me, it’s an admirable sentiment expressed with notable concision, but nothing worth writing a book about, let alone the scores of books that have been written about the Gettysburg Address through the years.
At least we all agree, I think, that it’s a bit much to assume every incoming student will be interested in this sort of extremely deep analysis of a minute topic. That’s particularly true when you consider that the 3,700 students who had to read the book included all of Cornell’s undergraduate divisions — not just Arts and Sciences (a little more than half the total), but Agriculture, Engineering, Hotel Administration, the mysteriously named Human Ecology, and all the rest. Given that wide range of interests and preparation, I’m not surprised that the Cornell Daily Sun got some responses like that of Edward Kim ’12 (which you’ll have to consult the original article to read).

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