It’s Memorial Day in the US, which is the official public tribute to the dead of our various wars. This is marked with parades, and ceremonies at cemetaries in towns all across the country.
When I was a kid, we always went to the parade in town, which went from the center of town out to the main cemetary, where they would have a short ceremony in which the American Legion chaplain would lay a wreath at a representative grave, and they would fire guns in tribute. When I was in junior high and high school, I used to play “Taps” for them on the trumpet.
There was also always a reading of the Gettysburg Address, which is probably the most-quoted speech in American history. The thing is, it’s also one of the few that can stand up to that kind of quoting:
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 battle-field 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.
Really, it doesn’t get much better than that. It takes about two minutes to read, even when it’s read haltingly by a nervous high-school student, but it says everything that needs to be said. It looks great carved in marble, too.
And really, what is there to add?
(Other than a link to the PowerPoint version, that is…)