This morning while browsing Wikipedia, I was reminded that November 19 is the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. It is probably one of the most sublime speeches ever given. It is around 200 words and would take about two minutes to give. In some public speaking classes, the Gettysburg Address is used as an exercise to demonstrate elocution and how to condense material in a short span that would be memorable to the audience.
The story behind the speech is that Lincoln himself was NOT the keynote speaker that day at the event. There is another story that he wrote the entire speech on the back of an envelope while riding on the train. In fact, because it was so short, Lincoln thought no one would ever remember it. That’s ironic because the keynote speaker droned on for two hours and history has not seen fit to remember that speech.
Fast forward to 2019. It is the Teen Tournament for the trivia game show Jeopardy! where the best and the brightest of today’s youths compete to demonstrate their knowledge. One of the clues refers to the Gettysburg Address. None of the contestants got it, but they could identify lyrics from pop stars from the 2000s. None of them. 0 out of 3. That’s appalling. What are we teaching the teens these days? Certainly not American history.
The next generation has forgotten between the words liberty, autonomy, and anarchy. Any restraints on “freedom” is seen as restrictive, backwards, and “intolerant”. They have certainly strayed from what Lincoln understood as liberty. He starts with the proposition that our nation was blessed and ends with the nation. The people are in the middle. There is a higher calling than promoting a false liberty of “I do whatever I want.”
Note: I believe freedom requires some restraint. It’s called adulthood.
So without further ado, here’ s the Gettysburg Address in full:
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 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.– Abraham Lincoln