It was November of 1863 when Lincoln stood before the field where thousands of souls lay buried and delivered his address to those gathered there in remembrance.
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.
I have been taught that his words quieted those opposed to the Civil War and somehow soothed the ravaged hearts of those who counted the cost too great and the goal unattainable.
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 today, on this day of national remembrance, Lincoln’s great address holds different meaning…not a justification for death and sacrifice, but a declaration of purpose that is beyond conflict and war.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground.
So that those who seek to remember can do so with context.
The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.
So that no one can corrupt that tragedy and the thousands who died as a result of it with politics, fame or glamour.
The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.
Despite the praise lavished upon Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, one can not hear it or read it and avoid that call to purpose…the lack of arrogance…the humble exploration of sacrifice too great for mere words to define and loss too raw for comfort to penetrate.
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.
And isn’t that the great and worthy task before us now? Aren’t we now called upon to act and do and move forward toward something…some thing, Lord have mercy…a new era built not through conflict but in the aftermath when the guns fall silent, the dead are buried and the living are left to make sense of it all.
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...
Life - and the fearless living of it to the fullest.
...that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain...
Liberty - and the brave defense of it from all enemies, foreign or domestic.
...that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom...
And the pursuit of happiness.
Of the blessing that is peace.
And that government of the people, by the people, for the people,
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