All sorts of historic documents will be brought out in recognition of Veterans Day, today.
However it would be difficult to find one that is more appropriate than the one that was written by President Abraham Lincoln when he spoke at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Penn. on Nov. 19, 1863. And it is, again, most pertinent to consider on this day of the year.
From July 1-3, 1863, more than 170,000 Americans fought on this ground.
More than 7,500 of them never left the field alive.
As Lincoln observed, however, what was to be honored at Gettysburg went far beyond those 7,500 lives.
It even went beyond the 600,000 lives that were lost in that horrible Civil War.
Lincoln was speaking to the ages about the cost of preserving our liberty and our Union, both of which continue at risk in our time.
One of their safeguards — though not the only one — is recognized today, as our nation honors veterans of military service.
And so Lincoln’s immortal words are relevant.
Here they are”
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.
There is the popular suggestion that Lincoln wasn’t sure of his words, that he commented that plow won’t scour — that the speech had failed.
Lincoln was too intelligent and savvy to believe that.
He had crafted a successful speech. He may not have realized that he had created literature that would last as long as America, but he understood his accomplishment for that day.
Whether he understood this or not, his words have spoken to every generation of Americans and continue to challenge us today to dedicate each generation to this work, which remains unfinished, and remains our legacy and that of our children.
— Chuck Smith