"What lessons should Americans today draw from the Gettysburg Address?"
By Kelly B. Jarvis
As time honored as the Gettysburg address is, as a youth--I never considered it a great speech. How could a speech be great when given at the site of so many war dead? In my mind, as a youth--great speeches were those that celebrated great accomplishments or moved people to high achievement. The Gettysburg address did neither as far as I was concerned. When given the opportunity in 8th grade History to either memorize the Gettysburg address or the Declaration of Independence, I-- feeling the latter was far more meaningful, chose to memorize the Declaration, despite its extra length. I was only one of a few who did because the Gettsyburg had only 263 words vs.1,300 words for the Declaration ----and the amount of credit awarded for either was the same. But Thankfully, Miss Woodward, -- later adjusted the credit to my favor for the longer memorization.
Fifty years later, with a clearer view, but not eyesight-- life experience has allowed me to see the stirring greatness embodied in the Gettysburg address.. It drives home a singularly significant point—a promise (if you will) that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth” if we highly resolve it to be.
What changed me? My pocketbook!!!! After high school, I lived in South America as a missionary where I learned that government by and for the people is for most souls-- a faint hope. With hyperinflation in Argentina then around 80% per year and still 40% now, I learned from that experience that government is not the solution to inflation, it is the very cause of inflation. After South America, I worked for Wirthlin meats when a very misguided Republican administration attempted price controls on none other than the small business retailer in order to bring down inflation. Federal price control inspectors would enter the Wirthlin plant on 200 S and 800 E. in Salt Lake City and demand to see the books in order to make sure Wirthlins was not raising its prices despite the rise in the company’s wholesale costs. Customers of Joe Wirthlin would ask, “How can a Republican Administration stoop to this?” Joe would answer, “Don’t ask me!, Nixon’s campaign strategist for both elections was Richard Wirthlin, he’s my brother---price controls are not what my mother, a devout Republican, taught my brother to teach Richard Nixon!” From that, I learned that government is not the solution to high prices, it is the very cause of high prices. During my professional schooling in Chicago, I watched as democratic and Republican mayors of big U.S. cities begged for bailouts from the federal government. I learned that the federal government is not the solution to decay in the cities, it is the very cause of decay in the inner cities. And what have we learned in early 2014? That the federal war on poverty program for the past fifty years has been an abject failure.
I did not plan to travel from Chicago to New York in August of 1974 just to be climbing the Statute of Liberty exactly when Nixon resigned from office. Nor did I plan to be sitting at the Lincoln Memorial the very next day or in Gettysburg later that afternoon reading the famed address on the plaque so soon after a sitting President resigned in disgrace. But from it all, I have learned that those of the opposition cannot dash our hope for government by the people unless Republicans join them. Now, (to paraphrase Lincoln), this very minute we are engaged in a great ideological battle, testing whether this nation should control better than half of the economy and think that it can endure. Ladies and Gentlemen in the Spirit of the simple brevity of the Gettysburg Address, I conclude this essay in a little more than 500 words, by saying we must highly resolve to take back the U.S. Senate in this next election and the Presidency in 2016 with a full majority in House and Senate, or I feel certain this Nation for the people and by the people will not long endure.