Lincoln had already demonstrated, most notably at Gettysburg 16 months earlier, a talent for saying a lot in a short speech.
At his March 4, 1865, second inaugural, he delivered one of the shortest ever by a president. It was almost entirely about the Civil War, the long national nightmare then winding down.
Obama has neither that talent for brevity nor the comfort to confine his remarks to a single topic. Coming up is another set of negotiations with Congress over spending and taxes.
What does he intend to accomplish?
On the world stage, there is movement toward talks between several nations and Iran about its nuclear program. Obama must signal encouragement.
The world is eager for economic leadership. Obama must show how he intends to lead the economy here at home.
Still, many issues pressed on Lincoln on that rainy day in 1865: how to finish the war, Reconstruction, the fate of former slaves.
Lincoln simply said what would guide him: "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, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."
Maybe a short speech on Monday would be best.