Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Seven Score and Five Years Ago Today

The morning of November 19, 1863, dawned cold and damp in Gettysburg, PA. A thin misty fog hung over the nearby rolling fields and steep hills which had been the scene of one of the nation's bloodiest tragedies only a few months before. 

By noon on that November day, however, the sun had broken through the low clouds. A large crowd had gathered to hear President Lincoln and other dignitaries dedicate a portion of that historic battlefield as a national cemetery.

Lincoln's speech was by far the shortest of the day, but perhaps more than any other address by any sitting President before or since, it captured the very essence of the American experiment in democracy. As our nation prepares for yet another huge step forward in the long march towards fulfilling its promise, Lincoln's words bear repeating on this, the 145th anniversary of their initial utterance:

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 battlefield 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 cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot 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 and for the people shall not perish from the earth.

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