Authored and submitted by attorney Rees Lloyd
On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln, amidst the ongoing internecine carnage of the Civil War, delivered his most famed speech, the now revered Gettysburg Address, at the dedication of the Soldier’s National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
The Battle of Gettysburg had raged July 1 through 3, 1863. It involved more than 170,000 Americans. Troops of the Union Army of the Potomac and of the Confederate Northern Army of Virginia fought one another there. More than 7,500 Americans died there. More Americans would die in the Civil War, some 650,000, than in any war in our history.
The Union victory at Gettysburg, after so many defeats, was seen as a turning point in the war. But both the war and Lincoln’s future were in grave doubt. Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. He had instituted the Draft, leading to “Draft Riots” in New York and other northern cities. Anti-war Democrats, called “Copperheads,” were calling for appeasement of the secessionist states, and for Lincoln’s defeat in the 1864 elections. Lincoln himself expressed his belief he would not remain in office long enough to preserve the American union.
Lincoln, although President, was not the keynote speaker at Gettysburg. In fact, he was belatedly invited, almost as an afterthought, to “speak a few words” at the dedication following the keynote speech by one of America’s most famous orators Edward Everett, former Secretary of State and former Governor, Congressman, and U.S. Senator from Massachusetts.
Everett spoke for two hours. Lincoln spoke for two minutes. But it is the “few words” that Lincoln spoke which have lived in American hearts through the ages, and which to this day touch what Lincoln called “the mystic chords of memory.”
Once, in American schools, including in my grandfather’s generation and my father’s, and mine, American school children were taught Lincoln’s inspiring Gettysburg Address, and even memorized it. But not in my children’s’ generation. Not today. No. America’s schools have made so much progress by following liberal “progressive” educational policies that on November 19, 2010, the anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and its call for a “new birth of freedom” and re-dedication to preservation of a free America “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” is hardly mentioned, if at all.
“Show me what American children of one generation are taught in the schools, and I will show you what kind of government the next generation of Americans will have,” Lincoln once observed. He was right. Look today at the White House in which Abraham Lincoln once lived.
Here, then, for our heritage-deprived American children in “progressive” public schools, for all Americans, Lincoln’s inspiring words in tribute to veterans whose service and sacrifice hallowed Gettysburg, and his call for a “new birth of freedom” and preservation of the real American dream – not a big house and big car and big healthcare and other big welfare handouts from a big government, but the dream of a free nation, under God, in which all are equally free, through a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address of November 19, 1863, a true milestone of liberty:
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 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 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.
REES LLOYD is a longtime civil rights attorney and veterans activist whose work has been honored by, among others, the California Senate and Assembly, and numerous civil rights, workers rights, and veterans rights organizations. He has testified as a constitutional expert at hearings before the U.S. House and Senate representing The American Legion.
He has been profiled, and his work featured, by such varied print media as the Los Angeles Times and American Legion Magazine, and such broadcast media as ABC's Nightline and 20/20, Fox News In The Morning, and, among others, by Hannity. His writings have appeared in a variety of national, regional, and local newspaper, magazine, and other publications. He is a frequent radio commentator, and a sought after speaker.