Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation

Shawn Pegram

150 years ago, President Lincoln issued forth to a divided nation the Emancipation Proclamation, delivered somewhat out of desperation, yet dedicated to the persisting proposition that all men are created equal (women would be a proposition that would simply have to wait). Now we are in the 21st century, tackling such issues as illegal immigration and gay marriage, testing even further the notion of equality. We are all immersed in the battle for economic preservation, while also maintaining civil liberties. It is altogether natural that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we can never achieve total equality, nor perhaps should we. Politicians speak of the equitable distribution of wealth, without fully taking into account the simultaneous inequity of contribution. Equal distribution of resources is unrealistic – ask any 20th-century Socialist nation, if it still exists as such. Racism, ethnic segregation, class struggle will never die, never be “solved.” It is more realistic, more desirable, to be today dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that we honor those who have suffered to improve their personal situations, and that of their families, regardless of their color, gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual orientation – that we highly resolve that we do not continue to make the same ethical blunders repeatedly, whether slavery, native American annihilation, Jim Crow, Japanese internment, Tuskegee, or Guantanamo – that this nation will continue to refine its definition of equality, that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, gives everyone a fair shot at the pursuit of happiness, while conceding that it will never be able to guarantee said happiness for each and every citizen. Shawn Pegram