Brooks posted about a challenge from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
The challenge was: “If you wish to participate, we ask that you write on one of three topics: 1) Abraham Lincoln, 2) Gettysburg/Gettysburg Address or 3) any cause-related topic which inspires your passion. In the Lincoln tradition, you must express yourself in only “272 Words” — no more, no less.”
Brooks provided his entry, which I thought was excellent. Over the past few days I’ve done a lot of thinking about the Gettysburg Address, about Lincoln, and about the meaning of both of them to us today. After all, history is mere recitation of fact if it has no meaning for us. In fact, I’ve thought some about this off and on ever since listening to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s keynote address at the Gettysburg Sesquicentennial kickoff ceremony. The more I’ve thought about it, the more amazed I am at Lincoln. While he aimed the Gettysburg Address primarily at the audience of the US home front in the Civil War, we remember it to this day because it speaks to all of us. Not surprisingly to me, Brooks’ entry closely parallels what I’ve been thinking about the speech and about its meaning to us today.
So with massive borrowing from Lincoln, I present my 272 words:
Four score and seven years after our Fathers brought forth on this continent a nation with the vision of liberty and proclaiming the self-evident truth that all men are created equal, Abraham Lincoln, in the midst of a civil war testing whether such a nation could survive, and on a great battlefield of that war, challenged his generation to continue the unfinished work and to take increased devotion to the cause for which many brave men gave their last full measure of devotion.
It was altogether fitting and proper for him to do this. But, in a larger sense, the unfinished work will forever remain unfinished, for each generation must face its own challenges, each generation will be faced with threats to this nation, and each generation must devote itself to that same cause. Each generation must make its own sacrifices for that cause. It is for each generation to continue the unfinished work the previous generation has thus far advanced. Each generation must highly resolve that the men and women before them who gave their lives to protect that nation and that creed shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall continue to have new births of freedom generation after generation.
Lincoln knew while mere words could be ephemeral, deeds must be eternal. While most speeches extolling sacrifice are forgettable, the heroic sacrifices made in the cause of liberty and this nation must never be forgotten. From those honored dead, each generation must take increased devotion to that same cause, so government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall never perish from the earth.
What would be your 272 words?