Get­tys­burg Ad­dress con­tin­ues to in­spire

150 years later, Lin­coln’s speech long re­mem­bered

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation - BY MARK SCOLFORO — Penn­syl­va­nia Gov. Tom Cor­bett

GET­TYS­BURG, PA. | In solem­nity, thou­sands gath­ered at a cen­tral Penn­syl­va­nia bat­tle­field park Tues­day to honor a speech given 150 years ago that Pres­i­dent Abraham Lin­coln pre­dicted would not be long re­mem­bered.

The in­spi­ra­tional and fa­mously short Get­tys­burg Ad­dress was praised for rein­vig­o­rat­ing na­tional ideals of free­dom, lib­erty and jus­tice amid a Civil War that had torn the coun­try into pieces.

“Pres­i­dent Lin­coln sought to heal a na­tion’s wounds by defin­ing what a na­tion should be,” said Penn­syl­va­nia Gov. Tom Cor­bett, call­ing Lin­coln’s words su­perb, his faith deep and his ge­nius pro­found. “Lin­coln wrote his words on pa­per, but he also in­scribed them in our hearts.”

Echo­ing Lin­coln, keynote speaker and Civil War his­to­rian James McPher­son said the pres­i­dent took the dais in Novem­ber 1863 at a time when it looked like the na­tion “might in­deed per­ish from the earth.”

“The Bat­tle of Get­tys­burg be­came the hinge of fate on which turned the des­tiny of that na­tion and its new birth of free­dom,” Mr. McPher­son said.

In the July 1863 bat­tle, con­sid­ered the turn­ing point of the war, Union forces fought back a Con­fed­er­ate invasion of Penn­syl­va­nia. Lin­coln’s speech was de­liv­ered more than four months later, at the ded­i­ca­tion of a na­tional ceme­tery to bury the bat­tle’s ca­su­al­ties.

In the short ora­tion, he spoke of how democ­racy it­self rested upon “the propo­si­tion that all men are cre­ated equal,” a pro­found and po­lit­i­cally risky state­ment for the time. Slav­ery and full state sovereignty would not hold in the “more per­fect union” of Lin­coln’s vi­sion. “In 272 words he put to­gether what ev­ery­one was think­ing, what ev­ery­one should know,” said park his­to­rian John Heiser. Be­cause of vary­ing tran­scrip­tions, schol­ars gen­er­ally put the text at 268 to 272 words.

Supreme Court Jus­tice An­tonin Scalia ad­min­is­tered the oath

“Pres­i­dent Lin­coln sought to heal a na­tion’s

wounds by defin­ing what a na­tion should be. Lin­coln wrote his words on pa­per, but he also in­scribed them in our hearts.”

of al­le­giance to a group of 16 im­mi­grants, telling them the na­tional iden­tity is unique, il­lus­trated by the ex­is­tence of the word “un-Amer­i­can” and by the peo­ple’s “fidelity to cer­tain po­lit­i­cal prin­ci­ples.”

Greta Myer, 44, de­cided to make the six-hour trip from Akron, Ohio, with her hus­band and son af­ter spend­ing a week in Get­tys­burg ear­lier in the year.

“It’s some­thing we’ve never done be­fore,” Mrs. Myer said. “It was a his­tor­i­cal event that we wanted to be a part of.”

Among many re-en­ac­tors on the grounds were at least two Abraham Lin­colns, in­clud­ing one who re­cited the ad­dress.

“Lin­coln would have been sur­prised by the rev­er­ence ac­corded to him by fu­ture gen­er­a­tions,” Mr. McPher­son said, not­ing Lin­coln him­self held in high re­gard the coun­try’s founders.

“Would they pre­serve that her­itage, or would they al­low it to per­ish from the earth?” Mr. McPher­son said.

He said the Get­tys­burg Ad­dress, de­spite its short length, man­aged to weave to­gether themes of past, present and fu­ture; con­ti­nent, na­tion and bat­tle­field; and birth, death and re­birth.

“Men died that the na­tion might live,” Mr. McPher­son said. “Yet the old na­tion also died,” and with it, the sys­tem of bondage that en­slaved some 4 mil­lion peo­ple.

In­te­rior Sec­re­tary Sally Jewell, who also adopted Lin­col­nian brevity, said the Get­tys­burg bat­tle stands at the vor­tex of Amer­i­can his­tory, and the Get­tys­burg Ad­dress at the vor­tex of na­tional con­scious­ness.

Lin­coln, she said, called the coun­try to its un­fin­ished busi­ness, and he also came to sym­bol­ize the coun­try’s “great­est virtues of hu­mil­ity, of hon­esty and de­cency.”

Pres­i­dent Obama did not at­tend Tues­day’s events, cit­ing sched­ul­ing con­flicts.


John Voehl, por­tray­ing Pres­i­dent Abraham Lin­coln, cov­ers his heart dur­ing a cer­e­mony com­mem­o­rat­ing the 150th an­niver­sary of the ded­i­ca­tion of the Sol­diers’ Na­tional Ceme­tery and Lin­coln’s Get­tys­burg Ad­dress on Tues­day in Get­tys­burg, Pa. Lin­coln’s speech was de­liv­ered in Get­tys­burg nearly five months af­ter the ma­jor Civil War bat­tle that left tens of thou­sands of men wounded, dead or miss­ing.

A new cit­i­zen waves a flag af­ter Supreme Court Jus­tice An­tonin Scalia ad­min­is­tered the oath of al­le­giance dur­ing a cer­e­mony com­mem­o­rat­ing the 150th an­niver­sary of Pres­i­dent Lin­coln’s Get­tys­burg Ad­dress.

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