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Posts Tagged ‘Abraham Lincoln’

This is the prepared text for my June 2 keynote speech to the Pennsylvania Press Conference. I ad-libbed a bit, so this isn’t exactly what I said.

I’m used to leading 90-minute workshops at conferences like this. When Becky Bennett told me I would have only 15 minutes for my keynote address, my first thought was that I wouldn’t have much time to tell you about Digital First journalism and my company’s vision for the future of our profession. But we are, after all, meeting in Gettysburg, and I recall a tradition here of getting to the point quickly and saying something memorable without wasting words. Besides which, I’m better known now for my tweets than for all the long newspaper stories, editor’s columns, blog posts or workshop handouts I’ve ever written. So I want to steal an approach from my boss (always a good idea) and talk to you in a series of 10 tweets (with a little elaboration that might go over 140 characters, but definitely not over 15 minutes).

Before I start the tweets, I’ll say that these are focused on the journalism rather than the business because this is an audience of journalists. But we need to be as forward-looking in our business approach as we are in our coverage of the news. I am encouraged by the progress we’re making at Digital First Media in developing a new business model and finding new revenue streams, and you can read more about that on my blog and John Paton’s (he’s the boss who gave a speech to NAA that was built around tweets). But here I’m focusing on the future of journalism.

Much as you and I might love the feel of a newspaper in our hands and the smell of ink, and even though our craft uses a machine so precious it was mentioned in the Bill of Rights, quality journalism has no inherent connection to print. Liars Janet Cooke, Jayson Blair and Jack Kelley all worked in print and every crappy supermarket tabloid is a newspaper. The things that make us proud of our profession can make us proud of our digital journalism: commitment to getting the facts right, dedication to seeking and reporting the truth, high ethical standards, holding the powerful — and ourselves — accountable, serving the watchdog role with honor. (more…)

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Brevity is the soul of wit.

Shakespeare wrote that. And no one said it was shallow because he said it in fewer than 140 characters (27, to be precise).

When people who don’t understand Twitter whine about it, a common implication is that you can’t say much in 140 characters. So everything on Twitter must be shallow, right? I received a job application recently that touted the other social media the applicant was using but dismissed Twitter, implying that the person’s big thoughts simply couldn’t be expressed in just 140 characters.

Setting aside the fact that one of Twitter’s best uses is to distribute links to pieces of greater depth, I want to dispute the myth that short equals shallow. I have done my share of lengthy writing. I once wrote a newspaper story that ran 200 inches and my Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection ran 38 pages as a pdf. But I aspire to get to the point occasionally with a nugget of wit or wisdom.

So I rounded up some wisdom, insight and humor, much of which you will recognize immediately, all of it tweetworthy.

Let’s start with Jesus, whose most famous statement fits easily in a tweet: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

And some of the most enduring statements from our presidents fit easily in tweets (I deliberately left President Obama off this list because it is just too soon to say which statements of his will endure):

Thomas Jefferson: I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.

Abraham Lincoln: A house divided against itself cannot stand.

Franklin D. Roosevelt: The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

Harry Truman: The buck stops here.

Dwight D. Eisenhower: We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.

John F. Kennedy: And so, my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.

Ronald Reagan: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.

And, of course, leaders of other nations have been eloquent but brief as well:

Winston Churchill: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.

Nelson Mandela: If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.

Other inspirational leaders also showed their eloquence in brief statements:

Mohandas Gandhi: An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.

Patrick Henry: I know not what others may choose but, as for me, give me liberty or give me death.

Helen Keller: It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision.

Martin Luther King Jr.: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Douglas MacArthur: Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.

Rosa Parks: All I was doing was trying to get home from work.

Gloria Steinem: A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.

A couple writers known for their pithy wisdom nearly always shared it in bursts of less than 140 characters:

Benjamin Franklin: Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.

Aesop: It is with our passions as it is with fire and water, they are good servants, but bad masters.

Of course, I could go on and on. Virtually every advertising tag line (Just do it. Got milk?) would fit in a tweet, as would many lines from Shakespeare, Mark Twain and other literary giants, as well as lines from our favorite movies, songs and comedians. Not to mention such sages as Yogi Berra and Gertrude Stein. How many of your favorite “Seinfeld” lines would fit in a tweet?

Twitter leaves plenty of room to say something important. Most of us don’t take full advantage of that room, but you could say that about any communication forum.

If you’re interested in more tweetworthy wit, wisdom and inspiration, I’ve compiled other brief quotes by source (it may take me a while to post all the links). Please feel free to add more in the comments. I know I’ve just scratched the surface here:

A note on sources: I chose the quotes in this post primarily from memory, checking all of the quotes in this post in multiple sources (they all show up hundreds, if not thousands, of times on a Google search, so I won’t cite them all). The source I used most, including for most of the quotes in the related links, was BrainyQuote. Biblical quotes were checked using BibleGateway. I used the Bible translation that seemed to be the most-quoted for that passage, often the King James.

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This is related to my post, Tweeting wisdom of the ages, attempting to debunk the notion that something less than 140 characters must be shallow. These are quotations from Abraham Lincoln that would fit in tweets:

It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.

The ballot is stronger than the bullet.

Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.

You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.

I should acknowledge that none of these quotes comes from the Lincoln speech we remember best, renowned for its brevity but still well over 140 characters, the Gettysburg Address: Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

And this famous Lincoln quote also doesn’t fit under the Twitter 140-character limit. With Malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds.

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