We came close this past July, but I think it’s safe to say that the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address is the closest this nation will come to a collective remembrance of the Civil War. We shouldn’t be surprised by that. Lincoln’s words capture what for many is the essence of the war: sacrifice, freedom, and union.
While the number of newspaper editorials and television shows marking the occasion is impressive, it is the hundreds, if not thousands, of videos of people reciting the Gettysburg Address currently being uploaded to YouTube and other servers that I find telling. I’ve said before that it is the role of social media that marks this sesquicentennial as unique in that it has allowed individuals from all walks of life the opportunity to share their interests and perspectives on the past.
It’s not enough to read or listen to Lincoln’s words. We want to recite them ourselves, not to identify with the historical Lincoln, but perhaps to reaffirm principles that right now seem to be elusive. Or perhaps we need to be reminded that elected officials once had the power to inspire. Either way…
“It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.”