On this day, exactly a hundred and fifty years ago, Abraham Lincoln delivered his ageless Gettysburg Address. There is five copies of the speech made in Lincoln’s own handwriting. I have had the privilege of holding in my hand, between glass, one of the copies he penned. Some years ago, a very pleasant curator of the Lincoln collection at the Illinois State Historical Library gave me a private tour of the collection which ended with him getting their copy of the Gettysburg Address out of their vault and showing it to me. According to the Library of Congress website, “the copy for Edward Everett, the orator who spoke at Gettysburg for two hours prior to Lincoln, is at the Illinois State Historical Library in Springfield”, so I may have held this copy. It would have been great to make it to Gettysburg and see a renactment of the speech on this occasion, but it didn’t work out. It is too bad there is so little about this in the media, especially in the History Channels of the world, where one would expect to hear a much about it. Rex Murphy, in the National Post, recently wrote that what Lincoln said remains a “perfect miracle of public utterance”. As I stated in my book, “in his speeches and proclamations, Abraham Lincoln did quote Scripture more than any other President in history, as he led the United States through the worst crisis of its existence. The words that inspired the war-torn nation, echoed and still echo with the power and the beauty of the King James Bible.”
Why does the Gettysburg Address continue to have such an impact among people in America and around the world? I suggest that this speech, like President Abraham Lincoln’s leadership, was exactly what the trying time, the nation, and the world needed, and still is in need of.
“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.” http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/gettysburg-address/