Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Speech Remembered

On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address at the Soldiers' National Cemetery dedication ceremonies in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
After the Battle of Gettysburg, which took place from July 1-4, 1863, the citizens of the Pennsylvania town were over-burdened with the task of caring for the injured and burying the dead.
With nearly 6,000 dead bodies left behind by the Union and Confederate armies, and hundreds more dying each day, the state of Pennsylvania purchased land on Cemetery Hill as a burial ground for the fallen soldiers.
State officials invited President Lincoln to the dedication ceremonies as a courtesy, and were surprised when he accepted the invitation to come and speak. The day of the ceremony, Lincoln's address lasted a little over two minutes, but soon became a famous representation of Lincoln's beliefs in American democracy and ideology.

Today, only five copies of the speech exist, each with the immortal words written by President Lincoln himself, "...that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Take two minutes to read it, please.
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.

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