On November 19th, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address to dedicate the battlefield in the bloodiest skirmish during the war between the States as a resting place for the fallen.
Lincoln was said to have written his brief remarks on the back of an envelope, yet those scribbling still resonate today.
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.
The acclaimed PBS Civil War documentarian Ken Burns has been promoting "Learn the Address" by inviting 58 prominent Americans to recite those solemn words of President Lincoln from 150 years ago.
It is worth noting that the only person amongst the nearly three score of cynosures who failed to read the speech as delivered at the cemetery in Gettysburg was President Barack H. Obama. Our current President omitted the words "under God". Perhaps there was a teleprompter glitch. More likely, it is conscious return by Mr. Obama to conveniently edit seminal American documents to suit his tastes. Such a cavalier approach to what Ken Burns called pure Presidential poetry seems to be what honest historians want to avoid.
In addition, President Obama chose not to travel the 75 miles to Gettysburg for the Sesquicentennial, despite having a light official schedule. This is an odd omission as Mr. Obama declared his Presidential run at the steps of the Lincoln statehouse in Springfield, Illinois and adorned the White House with many Lincolnesque trappings. Those closely associated with President Obama have suggested that "the whole website thing" prevented a visit to Gettysburg. Yet Mr. Obama had time on Sunday for a round of golf and also attended a Maryland Terrapin-Oregon State basketball game.
Yet President Obama will be in the forefront in ceremonies commemorating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Although the currently elected occupant of the White House will be absent, this should not stop us from actualizing Abraham Lincoln's exhortation:
[T]hat 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.