On Nov. 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln stated the case for the future and the hope of our republic.

It was at the cold, silent battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania — the site just 4 1/2 months before of one of the pivotal battles of the Civil War — that Lincoln delivered a few brief remarks during a ceremony that officially dedicated those fields of war as a national cemetery.

His speech took barely two minutes, and the crowd’s reception to it seemed muted — taken by surprise, perhaps, at the brevity of the statement.

Of course, the Gettysburg Address has lived on. Its sentiment of unity in the face of division, its honoring of sacrifice, its prayer for “a new birth of freedom” and its reaffirmation that ours is a people’s government speak timelessly of the nation’s soul.

Today, on the anniversary of perhaps the most important speech in American history, we offer Lincoln’s words as a reminder of what we are and of an ideal of what this sometimes-divided nation can really be.


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 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 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.

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