Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Gettysburg Address

Delivered by President Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I spend time discussing the Gettysburg Address during my coverage of Chapter One in Bessette and Pitney's, American Government and Politics: Deliberation, Democracy, and Citizenship. Yesterday, as I pulled the speech up onto the projection screen, I asked students in class what they thought of it. Not a single student raised their hand. And this has been a pretty lively discussion group so far, so they honestly weren't familiar with it. That's why I spend extra time on it. I feel it's important and also that students are shortchanged by not knowing so powerful a statement on human freedom. It's such a vital affirmation of our liberty and the promise of equality. I love Abraham Lincoln. I'll be discussing the speech all day today:
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.

Lincoln Memorial