Let’s see how well I can do from memory:
Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address (no peeking allowed on my part):
Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on 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 battlefield 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 this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate. We cannot consecrate. We cannot 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 rather for us, the living, to be dedicated to the great cause for which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is for us, the living, to take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. That we here highly resolve that these dead should not have died in vain, but that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that the government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.
It’s not a perfect recollection, but it’s close. Just a few minor mistakes in the last two paragraphs, I think.
In junior high, I remember studying the Gettysburg Address, reflecting that those words were among the most beautiful ones I had ever read. A chord resonated within me because of their deep sincerity, brevity, and humility.
“The world will little note nor long remember what we say here…”
But, 150 years later, the world remembers every word he spoke that day.
Etched into the wall of a “larger than life” memorial for a “larger than life” man, his address serves as a reminder never to underestimate the power of the words we choose. Words have the potential to build our relationships, personally and professionally, or damage them beyond repair. Words reveal our character and compassion for others or expose our weakness and indifference. And once spoken, words can be apologized for but can never be forgotten.
Tremendous capacity for change lives in that truth. And tremendous responsibility, a charge to take a look in the mirror each day and ask ourselves how we can use this power to leave the world a better place.
Interestingly enough, President Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address on my oldest daughter’s birthday, November 19, 1863. I confess that I did have to look up the year.
“Words are not meant to stir the air only: they are capable of moving greater things.” ― Natsume Sōseki
Lyna Landis is the manager of marketing and communications of Utilities District of Western Indiana REMC.