This week marks the 152nd anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address. He finished it off with
“…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.”
What a loaded sentence. In it he manages to establish:
1) Unity amongst Americans. The speech took place during the civil war and instead of seeking to further divide, he sought to unify by reminding them that they were one nation.
2) That the US is a nation under God. Not above God, not its own God and not without God. But under God.
3) That freedom is paramount. Freedom from an over-reaching government and freedom from having to conform to one and others views – freedom of expression, speech, religion and conscience. As uncomfortable as freedom can sometimes be for those who would seek to control, Lincoln set out clearly that the US is a nation built on a foundation of freedom and individual liberty, and if that foundation goes, everything goes with it.
4) That government should be on behalf of the people. Not lorded over the people, but run by the people through their elected representatives, and within the framework of the Constitution.
In one sentence, Lincoln captured all that has made the US exceptional. On the anniversary of this powerful address, it would be good to go back to what he said and reflect on whether we have drifted, and if so, how do we get back.