November 19, 1863; Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Abraham Lincoln delivers the most famous speech he will give as president. He is there that day at Union Cemetery to join his country in mourning the substantial loss of life as a result of the Battle of Gettysburg, however his speech accomplishes much, much more. See, Lincoln's speech perfectly envelops all that the United States is struggling with on that day, and it serves as a sign of hope for millions—many of whom may have long lost it. Much the same as George Bush's "Well, I can hear you!" resonated with millions following the tragic events of September 11th, The Gettysburg Address helps to show, with few words, that the President is listening—and that he hasn't given up.
Gettysburg was a fantastic victory for the Union, thwarting Robert E. Lee's second attempt to capture the north and put a swift end to the war, but it was also the single bloodiest battle of the war. Lasting 3 days, the casualty count is estimated to be north of 50,000—just shy of the population of Grapevine, Texas. Lincoln had the difficult task of both mourning the deaths of his men, but also providing their sacrifices with a meaning that his listeners could take to heart. Lincoln accomplished both, and brilliantly so.
“That we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation shall have a new birth of freedom and that the government by the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from earth.”
Lincoln excellently reminds the audience (many of whom may have known one or more of the men buried that day) that the principles for which these men died represent the very life of the nation—that these deaths do not represent an end, but rather a new beginning.
So, today, as we continue to celebrate America and all it has endured (and will continue to), let us remember the sacrifices. Let us call on both the good and the bad, and let us celebrate our tenacity! We often forget that most of us non-politicians who speak passionately about our nation do not do so out of hatred, but simply out of a difference of opinion regarding how best to improve it! Let us celebrate those conversations and the growth they lead to! Above all else, however, let us remember the sacrifices of all who've served—not just those we know, but those who fought all those years ago. Let us celebrate a nation so worth defending that our brave servicemen and women selflessly sign up to do so year after year. God bless America!