The Gettysburg Address

Oratory, and the power of the spoken word, have formed nations, precipitated wars, spawned revolutions, and inspired millions in the pursuit of noble or selfish causes. In the long annals of human history, few political speeches have so captured the soul and imagination of a nation, or have come close to the simplicity yet depth of understanding, than Abraham Lincoln’s ‘Gettysburg Address’. It was delivered on November 19, 1863, a few months after the conclusion of the American Civil War to honour those who fell in the pursuit of freedom. Even today, Lincoln’s 272 word address resonates with right thinking people everywhere who value truth, noble principles, justice and freedom. His opening, wisely crafted, and solemn words set the stage of his historic address:

“Fourscore 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.”

Unlike so many political leaders in the past, and like few others today, Abraham Lincoln embodied the destiny and the soul of a nation. With his steady hand on the tiller, he navigated a country to calmer waters, in which sound values and principles, then and now, could begin to flourish and find resonance in the lives of countless millions.

Midway in his speech he commented: “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” Little did he realise that over 150 years later his short address would be considered by many worldwide as one of the finest masterpieces of wise governance and consummate leadership, which few have been able to match to date.

The American Civil War marked a turning point, a crossroads, in the unfolding life of a nation, destined to ‘light the Way’ on the world stage. The final victory brought about a union of all the states, and a greater liberty and freedom for all. Yet even today, the pursuit of freedom and justice is still a work in progress, not only in the USA, but throughout the world. His untimely death at the hands of an assassin’s bullet was a devastating blow for all those who cherished democracy, freedom and justice. But the values he stood for, battled for and died for, live in the hearts of countless millions throughout the world to this day.

A growing number of people of goodwill would probably conclude that we are approaching a critical point in human evolution and global affairs. So, perhaps, like Abraham Lincoln in his time, we can visualise the soul of our nation bringing its beauty and wisdom to bear upon the lives of all its citizens through politics, education, religion and civil society, and all the instruments at its disposal to serve the common good.

It would be fitting to conclude with the closing words of his momentous address on the battlefield of Gettysburg in 1863, and which have resonance today:

“… 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.”

The full text of his address can be found here.

Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are
prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.

Franklin D. Roosevelt



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