It was 150 years ago today that the most famous speech in United States history (and perhaps world history) was given in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It was part of a memorial to the approximately 51,000 deceased and wounded soldiers of the Civil War battle that took place there, thus far the single largest battle fought in the Western Hemisphere. Abraham Lincoln’s words (he wrote his own speeches) have come down in history as a memorial to him and his sense of equality, justice and freedom. Lincoln, however, was far from saintly in terms of fairness when one understands the role of him and his administration in its dealings with the aboriginal cultures within the borders of the United States. But that discussion is for another time.
Lincoln’s humble speech was meant to remind a war-beleaguered nation of the values upon which this nation was formed and the importance of preserving it because of these values. It is just as important today for us to remember these words and take them to heart. While even Lincoln questioned the ability of any nation to achieve such noble ambitions, it is clear that the United States is moving farther away from the bedrock of these values in the power that corporations and special interests now have over our elected government representatives. It has weakened our education system, diluted science and poisoned both domestic and international policy, so much so that even as a country we are becoming polarized. We must reunite, become involved and take our government back from those who would seek to usurp the very reason our nation was formed – “of the people, by the people, for the people.”
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon 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 come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do.
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 hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here.
It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, 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.”
Sources: Battle of Gettysburg: http://www.history.com/topics/battle-of-gettysburg Gettysburg Address: http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/gettysburg.htm