One hundred and fifty-eight years ago, on November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln gave a speech at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania where just a few months earlier American soldiers had fought one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. The battlefield was being dedicated as a cemetery for the soldiers who had died there and Lincoln had been asked to come and help honor the dead.
Lincolns speech, known as the Gettysburg Address, is not only the shortest speech (just 272 words) ever given by a US President, it is considered the greatest address ever given on American soil. He wrote it on his way to Gettysburg, finishing it the night before the ceremony. It took less than two minutes for Lincoln to deliver it.
The Gettysburg Address reminds us that thousands have died defending the ideals on which America was founded. It is worth repeating here:
"Fourscore 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 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 here 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."
Let us never forget the ideals that Lincoln extolled so eloquently and succinctly at Gettysburg so that government of the people, by the people and for the people does not perish from this earth.
And let us also remember that it is We the People who are responsible for protecting these ideals from those who do not cherish them as we do. As Lincoln said "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."
Like the soldiers who fought and died at Gettysburg, we the living must be willing to give all to protect our rights and freedoms from all who threaten it. We owe them no less.