Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation

William Shawn Pegram

In his Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln refers to the past, employing ideals such as liberty, and equality; he also stresses the challenges of the future, “the great task remaining before us.” His task was to reunite a divided nation. But what is the single most pressing “great task” that lies before us today? Some may claim it is still racism. Some may point to the threat of terrorism. Many claim it is the stability of our economy. But what is the one common, underlying thread that permeates all of these concerns, and more? It is education. Lincoln focused on the need for unity, freedom, and equality. Yet equality does not, should not, cannot be synonymous with complete uniformity. Education, the backbone of our own future, should never be “one size fits all,” yet that has been our practice for the past several decades. We must stop the treadmill. We must acknowledge that someone needs to be trained to be the plumber, the electrician, the carpenter. We must accept that while not every student is equipped to attend college, all adults need the opportunity to support themselves and their families. As a direct result of our fast-food, assembly-line mentality towards the education of our youth, that same education has lost its value. What makes something truly valuable is its rarity, its difficulty to obtain. But in trying to force-feed education to the masses, we have watered down the expectations to where no one places true value on the process. Let us use our resources more wisely, to give everyone the opportunity to be successful, but not necessarily all in the exact same manner. William Shawn Pegram