Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Few Appropriate Remarks of Mister Lincoln

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

This week marks the anniversaries of two very significant events in American History.   Friday will be the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, an event from my own lifetime, and today is the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s immortal Gettysburg Address.

Lincoln’s oft quoted speech came at the dedication of the Soldier’s National Cemetery (now known as the Gettysburg National Cemetery) in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.   The new cemetery was located on grounds that had been part of the Battle of Gettysburg just over four months before.  The Battle of Gettysburg had the greatest number of casualties of any battle in the Civil War, and many regard it as the pivotal confrontation of the war.

The primary speaker at the cemetery dedication was Massachusetts statesman and orator, Edward Everett, who spoke for two hours.  After that, the President – who had been invited by the cemetery committee to make “a few appropriate remarks” - took to the podium and spoke for two minutes.   He spoke of honor, devotion, and freedom  in simple phrases that have offered inspiration across the years and across the generations.

Here are those few simple remarks:

The Gettysburg Address
by Abraham Lincoln

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 so 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.

1 comment:

Don said...

"The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here."

The problem is that the world can, and has, forgotten "what they did here" but at least it will long remember what was said. And that, as much as anything, has helped to define Lincoln's legacy.