Every Memorial Day, I set aside a few minutes to read the powerful but surprisingly brief words of the Gettysburg Address. I am always impressed by Lincoln’s ability to, in so few words, deliver something so profound and so timeless.
We often talk about how America is an idea. But, the brave men of Lincoln’s address and the brave souls of men and women across the history of our nation have not only hallowed the battlefields where they labored in sweat, blood, and tears, they have hallowed the idea that is America, until it has become much more than just an idea.
In many ways, America is a creed, a faith, and a gospel. Not in a religious sense, but in the sense that we are a nation founded, not on the arbitrary notions of border, language, or race, but on ideals, principles, and values that have been consecrated by millions of sung and unsung patriots who have not shied away from the struggle of preserving and realizing the founding vision.
From the soldiers who stepped into the hellfire of German bullets at Normandy to the Americans who marched on Selma and into a hell storm of their own, the sacrifices made in the name of this vision we call America are beyond our capacity to comprehend.
But today, we are engaged in a struggle of a very different kind. Armies are not clashing in a field far away in storms of gunfire and showers of lead. We wage war upon each other with the crack of words and the sharpness of our tongues. We stand in open conflict with each other in a war of rhetoric, whose fields of battle are our homes, our streets, and our halls of government. In the callous and bitter treatment of fellow Americans, we have each become casualties.
And while the consequences of such a conflict seem to pale in comparison to the open war that Lincoln faced, is the test put to our generation any different? Are we not today faced with the very real question of whether a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal can endure in this modern world?
As Lincoln suggests, the cause of liberty is an unfinished work. It falls to each generation to ensure its flames do no go out and to carry the torch a little farther.
No matter our race or our creed, no matter our political affiliation, and no matter what transient electoral and rhetorical battles we are presently engaged in, let those who are yet touched by Lincoln’s words spoken so long ago answer his challenge.
Let us highly resolve that those who have struggled in life and in death to preserve and realize the founding vision did not do so in vain. Together, let us seek a new birth of freedom. Let us answer the call to struggle with the full measure of devotion to keep the ideals, principles, and values of our nation’s story from perishing in the hearts of our own people.
This article is taken from the May 27th Issue of From the Hawk’s Nest, a bi-weekly newsletter.