“The very contours of Lincoln’s face in repose lent him a sorrowful aspect. One observer remarked that ‘his face was about the saddest I ever looked upon.’ Another contemporary described his face as ‘slightly wrinkled about the brows, but not from trouble. It was intense, constant thought that planted the wrinkles there.’”
– Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals
150 years ago today, on November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered what became known as the Gettysburg Address. That short speech, about two minutes in length, is considered by many as the greatest speech in American History. When I was in 4th grade, I was required to memorize the speech. I wasn’t the brightest kid around, but I did realize that this speech, and this man, both were worthy of my respect and awe. Taking the time to read it today, on the 150th anniversary, helps me to connect to something larger than myself. And every time I read it I am able to connect to that 10 year old boy who began to realize that this was greatness. Up to this time I had my comic book, movie and T.V. idols. The Gettysburg Address changed me. I wanted to emulate his ideals. Abraham Lincoln was my first real mentor, my first genuine hero.
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 BATTLEFIELD 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 •
– As inscribed on the walls at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.
“Of all the great national heroes and statesmen of history Lincoln is the only real giant…Lincoln was a man of whom a nation has a right to be proud; he was a Christ in miniature, a saint of humanity, whose name will live thousands of years in the legends of future generations. We are still too near to his greatness, and so can hardly appreciate his divine power; but after a few centuries more our posterity will find him considerably bigger than we do. His genius is still too strong and too powerful for the common understanding, just as the sun is too hot when its light beams directly on us.”
– Leo Tolstoy