Every time I stand inside the Lincoln Memorial, I gaze in awe at the text of the Gettysburg Address carved into the wall to the left of Lincoln. The address itself is simple, short, and to the point:
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 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.
Politicians today seem to delight in being long-winded; speaking much yet saying little. I dare say that no politician today would be capable of speaking so poignantly and so elegantly, using so few words to make their point.
Particularly timely are the last few words – “… that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” And it is especially sad because it seems that in the America of today, government of the people, by the people, for the people is indeed vanishing. Without a fight.
It would be unfortunate for those who “gave the last full measure of devotion” to have died in vain.