Today marks the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, a short speech that has gone on to symbolize his presidency.
GETTYSBURG, Pa. — In solemnity, thousands gathered at a central Pennsylvania battlefield park Tuesday to honor a speech given 150 years ago that President Abraham Lincoln predicted would not be long remembered.
AP Photo: Matt Rourke – A new citizen waves a flag after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia administered the oath of allegiance during a ceremony commemorating the 150th anniversary of the President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address on Nov. 19, 2013, in Gettysburg, Pa.
But despite resurrecting the memory of Abraham Lincoln whenever politically advantageous, Barack Obama has decided to give a pass on attending the official 150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address Celebration
Gettysburg Address: 150 Years Later
MSN: The inspirational and famously short Gettysburg Address was praised for reinvigorating national ideals of freedom, liberty and justice amid a Civil War that had torn the country into pieces.
“President Lincoln sought to heal a nation’s wounds by defining what a nation should be,” said Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, calling Lincoln’s words superb, his faith deep and his genius profound. “Lincoln wrote his words on paper, but he also inscribed them in our hearts.”
Echoing Lincoln, keynote speaker and Civil War historian James McPherson said the president took the dais in November 1863 at a time when it looked like the nation “might indeed perish from the earth.”
“The Battle of Gettysburg became the hinge of fate on which turned the destiny of that nation and its new birth of freedom,” McPherson said.
In the July 1863 battle, considered the turning point of the war, Union forces fought back a Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania. Lincoln’s speech was delivered more than four months later, at the dedication of a national cemetery to bury the battle’s casualties.
In the short oration, he spoke of how democracy itself rested upon “the proposition that all men are created equal,” a profound and politically risky statement for the time. Slavery and the doctrine of states’ rights would not hold in the “more perfect union” of Lincoln’s vision.
“In 272 words he put together what everyone was thinking, what everyone should know,” said park historian John Heiser. Because of varying transcriptions, scholars generally put the text at 268 to 272 words.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia administered the oath of allegiance to a group of 16 immigrants, telling them the national identity is unique, illustrated by the existence of the word “un-American” and by the people’s “fidelity to certain political principles.”
Greta Myer, 44, decided to make the six-hour trip from Akron, Ohio, with her husband and son after spending a week in Gettysburg earlier in the year.
“It’s something we’ve never done before,” Myer said. “It was a historical event that we wanted to be a part of.”
Among many re-enactors on the grounds were at least two Abraham Lincolns, including one who recited the address.
“Lincoln would have been surprised by the reverence accorded to him by future generations,” McPherson said, noting Lincoln himself held in high regard the country’s founders.
“Would they preserve that heritage, or would they allow it to perish from the earth?” McPherson said.
He said the Gettysburg Address, despite its short length, managed to weave together themes of past, present and future; continent, nation and battlefield; and birth, death and rebirth.
“Men died that the nation might live,” McPherson said. “Yet the old nation also died,” and with it, the system of bondage that enslaved some 4 million Americans.
Part of the event was a speech delivered by suburban Philadelphia high school junior Lauren Pyfer, who won a contest to write a contemporary version of the Gettysburg Address, but at the same short length.
She urged the crowd to do their part to “nurture and preserve the rights of humanity, equality and freedom, across all nations.”
“It is impossible for one country to close its doors to other countries and still thrive,” Pyfer said.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who also adopted Lincolnian brevity, said the Gettysburg battle stands at the vortex of American history, and the Gettysburg Address at the vortex of national consciousness.
Lincoln, she said, called the country to its unfinished business, and he also came to symbolize the country’s “greatest virtues of humility, of honesty and decency.”
The Gettysburg Address:
Throughout history, many presidents have stayed away from Gettysburg commemoration ceremonies because the speech is a standard for presidential speeches… short, concise, poignant and perfect.
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 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.
There are actually a few varying versions of Lincoln’s Gettysburg speech (a word or two difference), but every version contains the words ‘Under God’. Yet President Obama again edited history, Lincoln’s famous speech and what was written on the telepromter in his recorded message u-tube message; He left out Lincoln’s words ‘under God’.
Today is the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s delivery of the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln’s words helped heal our wounded nation. Lincoln predicted, “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom,” and he was right. The trajectory of the war and the nation itself course-corrected back to the republic our founding documents envisioned – a nation “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
We are still that nation! Thank you sincerely to the beautiful people we’ve met on this book tour so far. They embody all the best of this great republic “of the people, by the people, for the people.”
We’d especially like to thank the gracious people of Plano, Texas, who came out today and were so understanding about today’s abbreviated event. Also, thank you to the helpful and kind employees at Costco. Palin is on her book tour for “Good Tidings and Great Joy” (Kindle)