Abraham Lincoln's Address

        Words To Heal The Nation -

        On November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln came to Gettysburg to help
        dedicate the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. He was not the featured orator.
        He followed a two-hour speech with one that took just two minutes. At
        the end of his address, many of those in attendance didn’t even realize
        he had spoken. But today, those 272 words continue to inspire a nation.

        In the few words of the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln redefined for the
        North – and eventually for all Americans – the meaning and value of the
        continuing struggle for a unified nation: "...that we here highly resolve
        that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have
        a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the
        people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." It was what
        many consider the best summation in the nation’s history of the meaning
        and price of freedom.

        Soon after the Battle of Gettysburg, local attorney David Wills proposed
        the establishment of a soldiers’ cemetery where Union dead could be
        reburied with dignity and honor. The creation of the Soldiers’ National
        Cemetery at Gettysburg became a model for the reburial of Union war dead
        in other national cemeteries during and after the war. Today, some 3,577
        Union soldiers (half of them unknown) from 18 states are buried there.

        Dedication of the cemetery, adjacent to the local cemetery where some of
        the fighting had taken place, occurred on November 19, 1863. Noted orator
        Edward Everett provided the main oration for the event, with a speech that
        lasted approximately two hours. Then Lincoln, wearing a black suit, tall
        silk hat and white gloves, delivered his address. In just a few minutes
        and 272 words, Lincoln described his vision for "a new birth of freedom"
        for America.

        Contemporary reaction to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address varied widely. The
        Chicago Tribune predicted that it would "live among the annals of man,"
        while its competitor, the Chicago Times, editorialized that "the cheek of
        every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat, and
        dishwatery utterances of the president."

        Event orator Edward Everett wrote Lincoln the next day: "I should be glad,
        if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the
        occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes."

        Today, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is considered one of the
        greatest speeches, if not the greatest speech of all time. At some time
        or another, most of us probably were required to memorize all or part of
        Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. But, how many of us were challenged to
        understand what it meant? As you read it now, we invite you to consider
        its significance.