Last week was the Fourth of July.
There were barbecues and fireworks, concerts and celebrations. Plenty of air time was given to songs about America and what it means to be an American. But today, life is back to normal. We’re back to arguing about everything from health care to homeland security to our nation’s role in world crises.
Last week, politicians gave speeches and for a few minutes or even a few hours the flames of our patriotism may have been stoked by their words. But today – do you remember a word of what they said?
Here’s one speech we are wise to remember – one of the most powerful speeches in American history, delivered at a time when our nation was more torn apart and decisively split than it is even today.
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 that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate – we can not consecrate – we can not 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 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 new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Today and every day, not just on the Fourth of July, we should remember what has been sacrificed so that we can celebrate who we are.
We are Americans. And, as President Lincoln so aptly wrote in 1865, our nation was conceived in liberty and reborn in freedom.
We have the right to disagree, to protest and fight, but perhaps we could accomplish more if we recommitted ourselves to working toward a common good.
Fighting among ourselves threatened our great nation 150 years ago. We forgot what it meant to be a patriot, to be an American.
Today, our nation seems locked in a great political and social divide, not as brutal as the civil war but destructive nonetheless. A great task remains before us – that America – our ideals, values and freedoms – shall not perish from this earth.
Today, on a mundane Wednesday, let’s recommit ourselves to patriotism – to working together to build a land of prosperity that honors the sacrifices of all those who have called this land their home. Whatever our political position, faith or ethnicity – let us remember that collectively we are Americans.