One of the greatest speeches ever given is also one of greatest tributes to American soldiers. It is a speech given at Gettysburg by President Lincoln before Memorial Day was recognized as an official holiday.
In November 1863, while the Civil War was still in full force, Lincoln stood at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg and gave a speech that was so short (278 words and less than 2 minutes) that the photographer did not have time to get a picture of him delivering it. In these 278 words, Lincoln guides his audience from the birth of the nation to the American Revolution and then ends with his wishes and vision for the future of America.
“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. … 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.”
What jumps out at me is that out of the 278 words, there is no mention of “I” or “me.” This is what we should remember each Memorial Day; the men and women who, without thought of “I” or “me”, were willing to give “the last measure of devotion” so that you and I might enjoy the gift of freedom. Maybe this Memorial Day weekend we can pause long enough to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for these heroes and heroines. Maybe this Memorial Day weekend we can go a little out of the way to thank all those who serve and have served our country.