Address takes on new meaning today
Today, in addition to the usual November events, holidays and seasonal commemorations, we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. On Nov. 19, 1863, the president spoke very briefly, but powerfully, those words which have been memorized by many school-aged youngsters and honored by just about every writer of the English language.
Our Tribune offered us articles about the history of both the speech and its significance.
However, I wish to give a modern “take” on some of the famous lines in the address.
For instance, its extraordinary conclusion includes this clause: “and that Government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Sorry, Mr. President. Here in Trumbull County, “of” and “by” the people might no longer mean what you intended. Fewer than a “score” of days ago, a mere 25 percent of our populace voted in an election, so we might want to change your words to “of a few of the people, by some of the people, and for most of the people” to fit our present reality.
Those who grew up in the 1950s and ’60s were immersed in the “Cold War” and anti-communist propaganda. If voters of that era would have been told that only one of four adults in our area is voting, they would have suspected a soviet plot to subvert freedom.
Now, in 2013, the former eastern European regimes are long vanquished. Present enemies to our civil and civic rights seem to be the Kardashians, reality television, and social media, all of which have apparently diverted our attention from those items of real importance, such as voting and the level of literacy needed to be citizens.
We have just celebrated another Veterans Day with speeches and many local events. I read a moving column in this newspaper by Bob Whited, himself a veteran, explaining the day and honoring veterans.
I try to thank every service person whom I meet for their dedication and commitment to our freedom. If I did not exercise my franchise by voting in each election, I do not know if I could even face them.
“Thank you for being willing to sacrifice your life for my freedoms, but, by the way, I do not vote because I am fed up with” Somehow, that might ring hollow to a veteran.
I certainly would like to hear from our county military persons about their reaction to our region’s voting habits. Is this the type of patriotism for which they fought, served and spent time away from friends and family?
Earlier in his speech, Lincoln told the spectators that he and they could “not dedicate consecrate or hallow this ground” because “the brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.” One hundred and fifty years later, I have to wonder if the ground surrounding Gettysburg would still be considered “sacred” if it were located over a shale deposit.
So, while we cannot “detract,” would we be able to extract or frack?
Do we really honor the all the words of our 16th president? Or are they just nice sentiments that we dust off once a year and to which we pay lip service?
At this time of the year, I remain both thankful and hopeful. I am thankful to live in this area of Ohio. Most of the people are hardworking, spirited and spiritual folks. I am hopeful that we can make these hometowns of ours even better places. I am thankful to the veterans who live among us. Their example of service encourages me to be a better citizen and gives me hope.
The aged words of Abraham Lincoln still have much credence for us, a century and a half later: “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us the unfinished work which they who fought here have so nobly advanced.”
Democracy remains an “unfinished work” in progress. Its work is local and regional, not just national. It is still worth “nobly” advancing.
Williams is a Hubbard resident. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.