... 1863 (145 years ago today), with the War Between the States still raging, a national cemetery was dedicated at a Pennsylvania battlefield where 4 months earlier 51,000 had perished in a 3-day battle. One speech immediately printed in full on the front page of The New York Times -- the Gettsyburg Address of President Abraham Lincoln -- resounds in American literature to this day. (Aside to constitutional law buffs: the speech's famous opening equation dates the birth of the United States to the Declaration of Independence, and not to the ratification of the Constitution.)
Given the affinity of President-Elect Barack Obama for Lincoln's writings, it seems appropriate to reprint the address in full, accompanied by the only known photo of Lincoln, shown hatless and with head bowed just after having spoken:
Fourscore 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 cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot 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.