Obama’s Gettysburg Address
“This is the president’s Gettysburg.”
— Rep. Jim McDermott, Washington Democrat
One score and four months ago, American voters brought forth in this country a historic presidency, conceived in hope and dedicated to the proposition that yes, we can. Now I am engaged in a great political war, the conditions of which I largely inherited from my predecessor, testing whether this presidency, or indeed any presidency, at least one so crowned in virtue, can long endure.
We are met after a great electoral battle of that war. We have come to dedicate a compromise tax bill as a final resting place for those who here gave their political lives that the rest of my extraordinary domestic legislative agenda might live.
Let me be clear: It’s tempting not to negotiate with hostage-takers, but in this case, the hostage was the American people, and I was not willing to see them get harmed.
I understand the desire for a fight. I’m sympathetic to that.
But, in a larger sense, I cannot dedicate, I cannot consecrate, I cannot hallow this compromise. It was forced on me by circumstances, and the brave women and men, politically living and dead, who were shellacked in the election are more responsible for it than I am. They need to stop talking.
The world will well note and long remember what I say here, even after it forgets those who have opposed me, on the right and the left. It is for my administration, rather, to be dedicated here to the great task remaining before me, the unfinished work of my agenda, which is already historic on a noble and grand scale. Take a tally. Look at what I promised during the campaign. There’s not a single thing that I’ve said that I would do that I have not either done or tried to do. And if I haven’t gotten it done yet, I’m still trying to do it.
And from these honored dead I take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion to me.
I highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, or under Allah, or whatever faith we equally revere, if any — shall have a new birth of responsible social equality and reasonable opportunity under fair, obligatory government supervision — and that people of the government, by the government, and for the government shall not perish from the earth until a proper time, as determined by the appropriate federal health care panels.
James S. Robbins is senior editorial writer for foreign affairs at The Washington Times and author of “This Time We Win: Revisiting the Tet Offensive” (Encounter Books, 2010).