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A New Birth of Freedom

What do you do for attention if you are seeking public office and you are already more than eight inches taller than the average male of your time? Don a top hat of course. The November 2013 issue of Smithsonian documents a fascinating collection of stories about "101 Objects That Made America." According to one story in the magazine, "Lincoln's Top Hat" by Stephen L. Carter, "Lincoln probably chose the hat as a gimmick." The stovepipe hat was traditionally seven or eight inches high making Lincoln appear close to 7 feet tall. The hat was also a little worn and shabby and as one historian noted, gave Lincoln a "look of unassuming simplicity." This unassuming simple man became not only the tallest president that the United States has ever had but also the most quoted United States president.

Today is the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, which he delivered at the dedication of the Soldiers' Cemetery that serves as the final resting spot for 3512 Union soldiers who died in the Battle of Gettysburg. According to NPS.gov, most of the Confederate soldiers who died at Gettysburg are buried in a special section at the Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. Every school child and most adults know "Four score and seven years ago" and the part about "all men are created equal." The entire address is only 270 words long. There are only five known copies of his address; one version is 268, while another is 272. We will average and say 270. Four score is catching but the last sentence is truly the most important.

Photo credit Corbis: History.com.

Address Delivered at the Dedication of the Cemetery at Gettysburg
?Abraham Lincoln
?November 19, 1863

Four score 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 dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field 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 can not dedicate - we can not consecrate - we can not 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..

A Way With Words

Photo from NPR.org.

This week also marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Like his presidential forefather, Kennedy was a great orator. At the time of his election he was the youngest person and first Irish Catholic ever elected to lead our country and although he served only a little more than a 1000 days, he is regarded as one of our most popular presidents. He was a U.S. Navy officer in WWII and was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for Heroism after his boat, PT 109, was attacked in the South Pacific by a Japanese destroyer. (See History.com to read more about the life and time of Kennedy.) He charged all Americans to do more in his inaugural speech when he said, "My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." He encouraged us to move forward and not accept the status quo. A few of his famous quotations include "Change is the law of life. And those who only look to the past or the present are certain to miss the future," "Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names" and "Democracy and defense are not substitutes for one another. Either alone will fail."

Thanks to modern technology, watch and listen to Kennedy's inaugural speech on YouTube.

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