"What lessons should Americans today draw from the Gettysburg Address?"
By Sheila Johnston
“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 birth of new freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
Abraham Lincoln Nov 19, 1863
There are certainly numerous lessons that can be learned from President Lincoln’s enduring address delivered at the dedication of the Cemetery at Gettysburg. I choose to focus on just two powerful lessons for America to reflect on today.
Always Remember - Never Forget
This lesson, if embraced by each American, will contradict Lincoln’s belief that the world will forget what he said that day. If people across our nation ponder the words spoken at Gettysburg, this speech can stir our hearts to not only remember his words, but also take into our lives a call to action. We must always remember these words by taking the time to memorize them and then teach our children the power of this speech. It will ensure that Lincoln’s words will continue to live in our hearts forever. It will inspire an increased devotion to the great people who have fought and continue to fight for the freedom of this great country. If not espoused and cherished, these words will become lost to generations of our children. They will lose hope and forget the lessons of the past if they are not repeated and honored in our homes, in our schools and in our communities.
We Must be Devoted and Galvanized to Act!
We must be so moved to act upon these renowned words that we stand up for the great freedoms we cherish and hold dear. If we, as good men and good women, abdicate our right to vote, we in essence give our freedom away and do exactly what Lincoln pleads for us to not do - “To let these men die in vain.” How can we ensure that this nation remains a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people?” The answer is simple. If we become disenchanted, lazy and ignorant of the issues before us we will let the ember of the flames of freedom die out from our hearts and we will perish from the earth. As a State in this great Union we have shamed the noble dead whom Lincoln praises. Only 35% of eligible voters in Utah actually exercised their voice in the past election. If we are to ensure that this great nation will not perish from the earth we must do better. We CAN do better. We must always remember the greatest gift these empowering words can give us is freedom. And freedom will come only if we act and exercise our voice and vote. We must show our children by our example that voting is one of, if not the most important duty and honored privilege as an American. The desire to vote, the desire to preserve freedom must burn so brightly in our hearts and in our character that others will want to do the same when they come of age. I was taught by an honest, humble, and God-fearing father and mother that these lessons were true. I believed on their words and was empowered as an 18-year old to vote. I have voted in every election, in every year since I turned 18. One of my greatest memories of my father and mother’s enduring example of love to county was seeing both of them carry the 2002 Olympic torch for our great country. And for my father it was one of his last acts on this earth - only months before he died. My parents have inspired a more devoted life for the fight for freedom in me, and I in return can impart their legacy to my three children and to my 38 nieces and nephews (their grandchildren) as wells as the countless school age children I teach. It also includes several neighbors in whom I come in contact with. Many of which I have registered to vote, who for most of their entire adult life have never voted in a single election. Love for this country burns in my heart, and having an Olympic torch is a symbol and a constant reminder of that fire.
We can be more devoted. Our hearts must burn for Freedom and the desire to Vote. Voting must become a right of passage, a right of Freedom, and a right of power from God Almighty. We can be more energized and we must Act. We must be more devoted to the cause to vote, and when we vote, others will follow for generations to come! We WILL ensure that Lincoln did not speak in vain. The memory of Gettysburg WILL forever live on.
Freedom will forever be spoken in homes of the god-fearing citizens of America. Thank God for the men at Gettysburg. Thank God for Abraham Lincoln. And most of all, Thank God for the United States of America.
I have attached a poetic version of my thoughts from the Gettysburg Address. It was written first a few years ago and it was my inspiration for my submitted essay. I wanted to share it with you all as well.
My Lesson from Gettysburg
I know that what I read is truth and right.
The Spirit of Freedom burns with all its might.
The price was paid by you for me,
I know this gift does not come free.
Through freezing cold and blizzard snow,
All the while fighting that enemy and foe
I see the path you clearly tread,
And hear the cries of fear and dread!
Your days were filled with blood, sweat and faithful tears,
You toiled and struggled and conquered your fears.
You kept your devotion of fire from embers of old
You’ve ignited mine now deep in my soul.
I too must let this fire burn,
To do all I can from you I’ll learn.
I thank you now my Civil War friend,
For helping me see that eternal end.
I look forward to a coming day
When I meet you and triumphantly say -
“I too have paid a price in life,
With all its toil and daily strife.
A Gettysburg speech beaconed me to rote
A privilege, a Freedom each time I now vote.
I stand before you and proclaim,
“I highly resolve that these men shall not have died in vain!”
God Bless the Men of Gettysburg. God Bless Abraham Lincoln
And God Bless the United States of America
Sheila Johnston (2011)