Over 160 years ago President Abraham Lincoln gave one of the most important speeches in American history. The Gettysburg Address lasts less than three minutes, but it is still known as one of the most influential speeches ever given.
At a time of great turmoil, division, and suffering, President Lincoln’s words were healing and unifying. He invited all Americans to be "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."
Like President Lincoln, we live at a time of increasing turmoil, division, and suffering. Today is his birthday. Perhaps we could celebrate his birth and life by reaching out to political adversaries, communicating with respect, and inspiring healing and unity in our day. What a wonderful gift that would be for future generations!
Below are three very different renditions of the Gettysburg Address. They are all great and you can watch all three of them in eleven minutes.
The first uses wonderful pictures and music to share the message of the Gettysburg Address in two and a half minutes.
The second, a three minute video of a two-year-old boy reciting the Gettysburg Address from memory, is an inspiration for parents (and grandparents). If we use our time well, our children are capable of happily learning and remembering much more than we realize. If we help them, they can carry our heritage in their minds and hearts.
The third is a moving six minute account by Ken Burns of Lincoln's experience and delivery of the address. "Lincoln felt he had failed the people with his short address, and yet, those 269 words were spoken and all speeches that came thereafter were measured against it." -- a wonderful lesson for all of us who may also feel inadequate as we seek to serve 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 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." ~Abraham Lincoln