The Gettysburg Address

9 06 2008

I’ve been reading Doris Kearns-Goodwin’s Team of Rivals and have been totally blown away by the Gettysburg address. It’s clear to me that Lincoln felt very keenly the loss of an estimated 51,000 lives in that battle, and he must have felt overwhelming guilt that the Confederate army escaped, allowing the war to take even more lives. Not to mention the incredible pressure of feeling that the world was watching to see whether this little experiment in democracy could really work.

His speech at the battlefield was, at only 278 words, so eloquent that I cannot help but compare it to the many garbled speeches given by our current president.

So, here it is. He couldn’t have guessed how wrong he would be in saying that “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here…”.

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 do 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.





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