Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Ten Sentences

As Google has noted, today marks the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg address. It is worth noting not just what he said, but why. Here's the words:

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 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 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. 
Are there any answers here that apply to today's world? A southerner would argue that there are many similarities between the state's rights issues that brought about succession and the same states's rights issues that are being virtually trampled today by Obamacare. That the southerners poured their treasure, lives, and land into an unsuccessful struggle for their right of self determination says a great deal about how important that was to them. Yes, there is no denying that slavery was a part of the southern platform. It was used to great effectiveness by Lincoln to drum up support for war, and ultimately succeed in preserving the union. It is perhaps the only part of that terrible struggle that justified it.

But Lincoln was right in that last part - the part about being 'of the people, by the people, and for the people'. That is perhaps the legacy we can all agree on and hope for.

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