Memorial Day, 2020

“We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.” —Abraham Lincoln, a portion of his remarks dedicating the Gettysburg National Cemetery on November 19, 1863; known commonly as the Gettysburg Address.

Of all the words appropriate for Memorial Day, the Gettysburg Address – which Lincoln delivered at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery – always stands out to me. Not just because it’s Lincoln or because it’s the Gettysburg Address, but because it makes us think about what’s expected from the living to truly honor the fallen.

Let us take this Memorial Day, and all of them, to rededicate ourselves to the task Lincoln urged upon us: “…that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.