The country has remembered the Gettysburg Address for more than 150 years. It is one of the most influential speeches in American history. What is little known is that President Lincoln was not the featured speaker on that momentous day in Gettysburg, PA.The famed orator Edward Everett was chosen to speak that day, to be followed by brief remarks by President Lincoln. The ex-Senator Everett delivered his oration over a two-hour period. People had come from far and wide to hear his inspirational words and unique eloquence. The text of his speech covered 13,508 words. (A printed page contains less than 600 words, as a basis of comparison.) After Mr. Everett’s oration, President Lincoln delivered a speech that consisted of 280 words. We know the rest of the story. History remembers Lincoln’s address and rarely makes mention of Everett’s oration.
Bob Greene, a columnist of renown, formulated a well-articulated moral to the tale of the two Gettysburg talks on that November day in 1863. “Sometimes, regardless of how diligently you prepare…of how thoroughly you consider every aspect of the task, you get blindsided by fate.” (Wall Street Journal, June 21, 2013). Life is unpredictable and fickle. Perhaps it is truly like a “box of chocolates” as Mr. Gump has taught us. We never know what life will hold in store for us.
No one enters marriage assuming that divorce will be a likely outcome. We are by nature an optimistic people. But things do go wrong, relationships unravel, and divorces do occur. In case of point, they occur with too potent a frequency. It is easy to blame another, be bitter, and treat divorce like armed combat. The only problem with that scenario is that it leaves us nowhere near where we want to be in life. If divorce is inevitable, we need to take the time to consider that a civil divorce can be the best way to prepare for the rest of your life.
As mediators, we have an opportunity to discuss disappointments with our clients. We might perform our service well if we can get the parties to focus on how setbacks happen to us in the course of our living on this planet. They happen despite our best planning and good intentions. Placing blame on another, or our wretched fate, accomplishes little. Mediation is a non-therapeutic modality to get parties to plan for the next chapter of their lives. If we help our clients do this, we have served well in the mediation role.
One last note is about dignity. What happened to Mr. Everett when the newspapers all spoke with virtual exclusivity about the President’s talk on that fateful day? The orator wrote to President Lincoln and stated: “I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.“ That is the kind of dignity that we need to try to instill in our clients as they pursue divorce. Mediation offers us an opportunity to try to achieve this goal, via the Win-Win approach.