Reflection on Gettysburg
The first three days of July marked the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, a pivotal battle of the American Civil War. There has been much written and talked and pondered of this anniversary — rightly so.
Gettysburg was but the one verse of a long poem, an epic poem that portrays the struggle to truly achieve “liberty and justice for all” in the United States. This unfinished poem has many verses. I speak of it in the present; we are still writing it. The verses include the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of January 1863.
Gettysburg marked the beginning of the end for the Confederacy. It was fought and won at a terrible cost — 7,000 killed and approximately 50,000 killed, wounded and missing on both sides in that pivotal three-day battle alone. Gettysburg delivered the national down payment on the emancipation, the ensuing reconstruction and the birth of modern civil liberties in the United States.
Vermonters fought and died at Gettysburg and in scores of other battles and actions of that war. How many Vermonters know that there were more killed on both sides of the American Civil War alone than we can count in our entire state population of today?
A writer in the July 7 edition of The Times Argus reflected on Gettysburg. He lamented how long the struggle to attain civil liberties for all has taken to be realized. I look at it from a different perspective, one of gratitude. I think about how many brave women and men have continued the fight for “liberty and justice for all” to this day. I salute each of them for their courage and determination.
In November our nation will mark another 150th anniversary — Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. I urge each of us to revisit Lincoln’s words, another verse of that epic poem. Ponder Lincoln’s challenge: “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.”
Vermonters have a history of leadership, of coming together and finishing our work. Are we ready to lead and finish “the unfinished work” of Lincoln’s eloquence? If not us, then whom?
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