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Our view: The Gettysburg Address: Timeless, complete

 

 

On Nov. 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln rose to deliver a short speech as part of the dedication ceremony of The Gettysburg National Cemetery, located on a part of a battlefield where more than 50,000 soldiers had died less than five months earlier. 

 

The brief address ­ -- Lincoln spoke for roughly two minutes -- nevertheless endures as the most famous speech in American history, and, although the times have changed, his words resonate as powerfully now as they did on the chill November afternoon 150 years ago today. 

 

We resist the urge to adorn Lincoln's address with any contemporary references or commentary. To do so, we believe, would be like admiring the Mona Lisa -- and then painting in a cat to sit in her lap.  

 

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 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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