To The Reader’s Forum:
Tuesday is the anniversary of an historic speech.
As we celebrate this sesquicentennial anniversary I want to share with you those very special words. They are the spoken words of a sitting United States President, words the President shared with this nation as the result of a battle. A battle that had raged on for three days in early July; July 1, 2 and 3 in a little town in the central part of Southern Pennsylvania, a little town called Gettysburg. The fourth day dawned, July 4th; the battle ended. It was to be the bloodiest battle ever fought on American soil. The casualty totals for that battle exceeded 50,000; and many of the dead were buried on that battlefield.
Shortly thereafter the President of the United States was summoned to travel. He was asked to come to that battlefield to dedicate a portion of it as a National Cemetery. Later that year the President, by way of train, arrived at that battlefield. During that dedication ceremony when the President stood and spoke he shared with this nation a few words; so few yet such powerful words, words the President thought would be of little note; nor long remembered.
Yet here we are 150 years later remembering those very words. But he knew the memory of those who fought there, and the memory of those who fought and died there, would never be forgotten. They are words that have come to be known as one of the most eloquent speeches in the English language.
Jon M. Babcock,
The Gettysburg Address
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.