Given on this day in 1863 one of the shortest, yet most eloquent and powerful speeches ever delivered. Pennsylvania’s governor, Andrew Curtin, charged attorney David Wills to care for the dead of the battle of Gettysburg. Wills purchased 17 acres of farm land to turn into a cemetery to honor the more than 7,500 who died in that battle. Wills invited one of the most well respected speakers of the time, Edward Everett, to give a speech at the dedication ceremony. Almost as an afterthought, just two weeks before the ceremony Wills also invited Abraham Lincoln to give “a few appropriate remarks” to commemorate the fallen. Wills’ speech lasted almost 2 hours…Lincoln’s lasted 2 1/2 minutes, yet it is still remembered and resonates today.
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.
— Abraham Lincoln
Thank you, Mr. Lincoln, and may democracy and freedom for all continue to be this nation’s guiding principles.