Honoring Those “Who Gave The Last Full Measure of Devotion” – On Memorial Day

Memorial Day is when we honor our fellow Americans who gave their lives in defense of our nation’s freedoms and way of life. But it is also more than that, and difficult to properly sum up in words. Fortunately, our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, did it far better than is likely anyone ever will when he delivered the Gettysburg Address. In the space of a few minutes, he articulated that we honor our fallen not simply for dying to protect their country, but more than that, because the principles of our Founding in 1776 are worth fighting and dying for:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. 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. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before 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.

 

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