Thursday, November 19, 2015

Dedication at Gettysburg, November 19, 1863

This was my very first speech ever, which I gave for 4-H Public Speaking this last 4-H year. I got second place. I wanted to share it with you all.
The people needed reassurance. They had been losing family members left and right, and now a battle had been fought around and in their no longer safe town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The soldiers who fought and died there littered the battleground in untidy shallow graves. Because of the lack of proper burials, the stench of blood and death still hung in the air. Though only one civilian died in the Battle of Gettysburg, it left many of them frightened or uneasy.

Four months after this battle, the reassurance they longed for came. On November 19, 1863, two different men came to Gettysburg to speak to the people. The main guest speaker, Edward Everett, talked for two long hours before a tall and thin man took the podium. This was the man they all had been waiting to hear. Abraham Lincoln, who was fully aware of the constant loss of the American people, came to dedicate a portion of land on Cemetery Hill to bury the dead. He wanted his words to kindle new hope in the hearts and minds of the citizens. So when he spoke, he spoke calmly and with confidence.

"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 cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate—we cannot 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 bed 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 here 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."**
Most people admired Lincoln and took his words to heart, while others were just surprised on how short his speech had been. Lincoln was wrong about one thing though—we do long note, and we do remember what was said on that day as well as what was done on the battlefield in Gettysburg. One question remains. How will history affect your life now? Will you learn from past mistakes or will you forget about the lessons of the past? We all serve a God who gives second chances just as much as he did one hundred and fifty-three years ago.

* Amy enhanced a photo of President Lincoln, source, with a photo she took.
**The Gettysburg Address

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