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The Last Full Measure

On this day 159 years ago, Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the shortest most influential speeches in history. Scribbled on the back of a piece of paper, carefully crafted and semantically precise, this speech challenges us still today to honor and support the democracy for which our forbears fought and to continue the unfinished work of our nation under God. The ideals of equality and freedom on which our country stands must be the standard we carry in all that we say and do.

As I read these words this morning, I grieve because of the divisiveness in our country today in institutions of all sorts. I grieve because of the pain in the world, the heartbreak of nations, and the confusion of children. The picture below of a child in Ukraine reaching out for food, for sustenance, reminds me of the groan of humankind for peace. And yet, Lincoln's words remind us of the strength of our nation, our people, our hearts and souls...and our government "of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from this earth."

Let us join hands and hearts and carry the standard for peace and justice in honor and memory of all those who gave "the last full measure of devotion" to make us who we are today. Our freedom must not be taken lightly. We must "go in peace to love and serve the Lord" in all that we say and do or else we will not prevail.

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.

Abraham Lincoln November 19, 1863


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