The pain of today’s turmoil cries out for context and understanding. Historical moorings are critical for understanding the narrative of today. History will in the end take the measure of us and of our times. Were we able to understand that our democracy and our nation were at stake? Were we able to draw from our history and our founding principles and sustain ourselves and our country? There is worth and lesson in our past, and we will fail as a people if we destroy it, deny it or only disparage it. Our forefathers faced challenges with courage. What will be our legacy?
Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, a mere 272 words, captures a foundational moment in our nation’s history after nearly 50,000 Americans died in the battle. I recommend it be read today. It helps to understand and to heal.
“Fourscore 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 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 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.”