As Memorial Day approaches, we reflect on the heroism and bravery. The sacrifice shown by those who gave their lives for our country. We visit their gravesites, read books, and talk about them. But of all the commemorations, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in 1863 is still my favorite.
There was no such thing as Memorial Day back then. In fact, when we think of the Gettysburg Address today, it’s mostly to help schoolchildren memorize it. But take time to actually read and ponder the words. I’m betting you’ll realize there’s never been a greater tribute to all those died while serving our country.
The Gettysburg Address
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 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.
This Memorial Day
I’ve bolded certain lines that I feel most apply to Memorial Day. The men and women who fought and fell truly did give their lives that our nation might live. For that reason, nothing we do or say can sanctify their actions more than they themselves have already done. Lincoln underestimated the lasting power of his own words. However, he was correct in saying the world will little remember the things we say. Rather the things they did will never be forgotten.
It is for us to resolve that our dead did not die in vain. It is for us to ensure this nation shall have a new birth of freedom, not just once but continually.