President Abraham Lincoln understood the power of words, and the inspiration that lyrical language can be. He also grasped that the underlying truth in any message is what is most important.
Although mistaken about whether the world would note or remember his remarks at Gettysburg, Lincoln was correct that the significance of Gettysburg would not fade from the American consciousness. The Civil War, of which Gettysburg was but one bloody battlefield, was indeed a test of the strength of our young nation, and the premises upon which it was founded. The many precious lives lost in this war could not be recovered, only revered.
With graceful brevity, the few words of the Gettysburg Address illuminate the selfless acts of the combatants who fought at Gettysburg. It was the blood, agony and sacrifice of those soldiers that was deserving of acknowledgement. President Lincoln recognized that no presidential proclamation or somber ceremony can adequately compare to the patriotic forfeitures made by those who fought at Gettysburg and elsewhere. The crucible that was the American Civil War forged a stronger nation, made so by the sacrifices of those men who fought it, on both sides of the battlefield. Lincoln’s eloquent words of tribute radiate well beyond his own century in their abiding truth – that the courageous soldiers who struggle for our nation’s continued existence have earned the respect and esteem of a grateful nation. The enduring beauty and significance of Lincoln’s brief remarks at Gettysburg reside in the acknowledgement of the extraordinary sacrifice made by many to secure a government that will endure, God willing, of the people, by the people and for the people.