One hundred and forty-six years ago, President Lincoln gave an address that has long been rendered into the minds, heart and soul of the American People – that’s the subject of today’s Talking Points memo.
Today we are faced with a global war – a War on Terror that began long before that faithful day of September 11, 2000. A hundred and forty-six years ago, the United States was in a different kind of ‘war on terror’ – the War Between the States. Though fought for different reasons, the underlying theme was the same – freedom.
Lest we never forget the enduring words of President Lincoln, as he addressed the nation at Gettysburg – these words could also be said by President Bush today speaking of the brave men and women who volunteered to give their lives for a country they love. Edward Everett, former president of Harvard, former U.S. secretary of sate had been the vice presidential running mate on the constitutional Union ticket in 1860 with John Bell. In effect, event organizers had invited one of the president’s opponents and had given him star billing. They also invited New York’s Democratic Governor Horatio Seymour, whose state had contributed so much to the victory. Lincoln’s “remarks” were never thought of as an address before he delivered them. Now, when it is recognized as one of the greatest speeches ever delivered in the English language, it is the Gettysburg Address that comes to mind whenever the word address is used:
“Fourscore and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon 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 whenever 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 cannot dedicated, 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 gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vein, 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.”
Here, Lincoln speaks of no North, no South, impugns no man’s motives, makes no charges, sounds no note of triumph. But he explains in 266 spare words the meaning of the war. And his words will live as long as the idea of America lives.
What Lincoln faced 146 years ago, is what President Bush and the American people face today – the fight for freedom. Lest we never loose sight, least we never forget.
And that’s the memo