"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 ..."
The words are from an immortal speech — one of the briefest of any great oratories but exceptionally long on brilliance and meaning. I wonder if we still take these words — and the sacrifice they eulogized — to heart.
Arguably the greatest president in our history, Abraham Lincoln spoke these words 150 years ago today, consecrating a cemetery for fallen warriors on the grounds of what remains America's bloodiest battle.
The speech, which became known as the Gettysburg Address, should remind us all of the heroism and bloodletting that forged a foundation for the lives we enjoy today. It's also a reminder to our government leaders not to muck it up any further.
Lincoln, a boyhood Hoosier, followed a two-hour speech by Edward Everett, a Harvard professor and a 19th century oratory rock star, with the two-minute Gettysburg Address. All in attendance on Nov. 19, 1863, were awestruck at both the brevity and power of Lincoln's words, including Everett.
"I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes," Everett wrote to Lincoln in a note of praise after the dedication.
Are we still in awe?
Multiple cases of local government officials on the take, federal government shutdowns prompted by unwillingness to find common ground and misguided federal plans that are high on promises and short on delivery should make us all wonder how deeply we're actually appreciating the sacrifices of our forefathers.
Continuously re-electing the folks who perpetuate these things is more than an about-face on the ideals embodied in Lincoln's century-and-a-half-old address. It's a blatant insult to those who sacrificed for our future.
In July, our nation commemorated the 150th anniversary of the July 1-3, 1863, Battle of Gettysburg. The nearly 8,000 American lives lost in that Pennsylvania battle of the Civil War led to the consecration of hallowed ground attended by Lincoln that November.
Hundreds of men from Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties fought on those fields of sacrifice. Some, like Crown Point's Col. John Wheeler, died at Gettysburg.
I wonder how these men would feel today, looking over the dilapidated landscape of our modern-day government.
Of course, the people of Lincoln's time saw more than their share of factionalism and government disruption. It was a time when half the nation was fighting the other half in what is still America's bloodiest war.
But Lincoln — with his still and steadfast hand — led our nation to victory and reunification.
We can only hope leaders with a fraction of Lincoln's ability still exist to ensure "a government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth."