This year, I decided to wait until November 19 to remember Veteran’s Day and another solemn occasion:
Let us turn, as I often have, to the Gettysburg Address, delivered by Abraham Lincoln on November 19, 1863, 158 years ago, at the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg. Edward Everett, a very accomplished man, was the featured speaker. Well known as a great orator, perhaps the greatest of his day, he spoke for more than two hours. No one recalls what he said that day. Abraham Lincoln spoke for less than two minutes. Everett, to his everlasting credit, wrote to Lincoln and asking for a copy of his speech, saying Lincoln, in just a few minutes, spoke more fittingly than he. Lincoln’s response is one of five handwritten copies of the speech in existence. I’ll think you’ll find it not only appropriate for the day, but eerily prescient of our current domestic conflict.
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.
Regardless what the future holds, we too must resolve that every veteran shall not have died in vain. We must ever honor them, living or dead. We too must support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and we too must ensure that the nation—the idea and noble experiment—for which they sacrificed so much, and for which so many gave their last, full measure of devotion, shall not have died in vain.
We see those enemies in Marxism, in racism, in ideologies that have slaughtered more than 100 million in the last century and that torture, destroy and kill even today. Such ideologies, and those that espouse them, are evil. What else can we call people who have killed on such a vast scale, who have inflicted such misery on humanity, on people who seek to “fundamentally transform” the most free and generous nation among men?
It’s little to ask to honor those who have given everything that we might have such abundance, and to ensure a United States of America still lives that liberty might live, that western civilization, the child of the Enlightenment, will not die—so help us God.