On November 19, 1863, at the dedication of a military cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in the midst of the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln delivers one of the most significant and important speeches in American history. In just 272 words, Lincoln movingly and profoundly reminded a war-weary public why the Union had to not only fight, but win the Civil War.
Lincoln took the worst tragedy to ever befall the republic, and reminded Americans that what was at stake was not the bloody past, or the uncertain present, but the future yet to come. With conviction and certainty, he made the case that the war was just because of what it would produce.
Now, more than ever, we need leadership that charts a course forward into the future while recognizing and accepting the realities of the challenges we face, and confronting them boldly.
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.
November 19, 1863