Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mr. Lincoln, tear down this peculiar institution.

Sevenscore and ten years ago, our forefathers brought forth upon this continent a new birth of freedom, conceived in civil war, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great contest with the descendants of traitors, testing whether this freedom, or any freedom so conceived, can long endure. We are met on a day of remembrance, when the dead of Gettysburg were buried by a President who would be buried a few short years thereafter by a bullet fired against civil rights. These were not the last martyrs of freedom; the dead of Selma, of Birmingham, of every lynching and riot lie in hallowed repose with them, dead so that the great hope of our Constitution might live - our Constitution, a beautiful, bittersweet promise so long unfulfilled, but brought into the full light of glorious day by a long-suffering but unconquered people in the name of another martyred President.

We cannot hallow their graves, or sanctify their deaths, any more than their own actions have consecrated them. It is for us the living, instead, to dedicate ourselves to the struggle which they have so nobly advanced. It is ours to take from their last full measure of devotion the inspiration to stand guard around the tomb freedom's enemies have prepared it, and give it space to be born anew, phoenix-like - that all may be free from need and privation, that the riches of our continent may not be plundered and poisoned for the few, and that government by the people, for the people, and of the people shall not perish from the earth.

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