We used to memorize things back in our Catholic school days.
As a kid in Cuba, my late great Uncle Joaquin, a judge, law professor and the biggest fan of Lincoln in the planet, used to impress us with his memorization of The Gettysburg Address. He would recite every line and tell us what it all meant to him.
“Using just 272 words, Lincoln articulated the meaning of the Civil War for a public that had grown weary of the conflict.
For some time, Lincoln had been planning to make a public statement on the significance of the war and the struggle against slavery.
In early November, he received an invitation to speak at the dedication of part of the Gettysburg battlefield, which was being transformed into a cemetery for the soldiers who had died in battle there from July 1 to July 3, 1863.”
The speech was very quick, very quick by modern standard. He spoke for a few minutes but the impact was huge.
“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.”
Looking back, this address was shorter than most but significant like few ever said. It explained the whole reason for preserving the Union. It explained a big part of what it means to be an American. It should live in our hearts and minds as we celebrate the 153rd anniversary of this day.
And of course, I remember my late great Uncle getting all inspired to recite the speech.
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