Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation

Brenda Thompson

Last October, our family traveled to Gettysburg. In anticipation of our visit, we rewrote the Gettysburg Address. Though his speech was brief, President Lincoln’s language was considerably flowery by today’s standards. Here’s our translation into present-day lingo: “Eighty-seven years ago (in 1776), Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Ben Franklin, and all those guys started a new country. It was started with the belief that all people are free, and based on the idea that everybody has the same rights. Now we are in a war between the citizens of our country, testing whether that country, or any country based on those principles, can keep going. We are standing on the Gettysburg battlefield. We are here to dedicate a cemetery for those who died here to save the nation. It’s the right thing for us to do. But in the big picture, we can’t dedicate it or make it sacred. The brave men, still living or dead, who fought here, have made it sacred far more than we can. The world won’t notice or remember what we say here (Lincoln underestimated), but it will never forget what they did here. It is for the living (us) to keep fighting for that cause. We must promise that those people who died here didn’t die for nothing. We must make sure that this nation, under God, shall have freedom for all people (slaves included), and democracy shall not be forgotten and gone.” The survival of democracy and freedom for all was the precious cause for which the Union was fighting on that sacred ground. Though our language has evolved over 150 years, the ideology is timeless. Brenda Thompson Rock Island, IL