By U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley
It was seven score and 10 years ago. On Nov. 19, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln delivered his now legendary Gettysburg Address. Four months after the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, the president returned to the site to remember the 51,000 Americans who lost their lives in the three-day battle, turning Pennsylvania farm fields into a battleground’s graveyard.
Arriving by train from Washington, D.C., President Lincoln delivered his historic speech at the dedication of the “Soldiers’ National Cemetery” where more than 3,500 Union soldiers were laid to rest.
In just 272 words, the president memorialized the enduring legacy of the most sacred principles of our republic. In 10 sentences, the 16th president immortalized the unique vision of the Founders, a nation “conceived in liberty” and paid tribute to those who gave their lives on the battlefield so “that the nation might live.”
This Veterans Day — Monday, Nov. 11 — let’s remember the “unfinished work” described by President Lincoln and so “nobly advanced” 150 years ago by the soldiers who fought in the Battle of Gettysburg and by all of those who have fulfilled a patriotic duty to serve our country in times of peace and war.
President Lincoln did not realize the power of his eulogy. President Lincoln’s humility grossly underestimated the enduring power of his message that underscored our individual rights as Americans. His closing words remind us about the rights and responsibilities we bear as citizens of this great nation: that “government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from this earth.”
The Gettysburg Address holds relevance today on its sesquicentennial anniversary. The United States was 87 years old when President Lincoln asked if any nation conceived in liberty “can long endure.” This summer, America celebrated 237 years of independence.
Our republic endures because its foundation is strong. The deeply held views of the electorate today focus largely on the size and scope of government. The ideological divide among voters can be seen in the politics and policies that shape American society. The no. 1 issue on the minds of the electorate arguably is getting the economy back on the right track.