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WHAT IF... You could go back in time and listen LIVE to a momentous speech from America's past? Which one would you pick?
All three of these addresses spoke volumes to the generations which heard them live, and to those of us who have come after, too.
They weave a path towards that more perfect Union promised by the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution and it's Preamble and the better future for OUR posterity which We The People are still seeking...
The Gettysburg AddressI ask you to now to re-read that third paragraph, and imagine that it was written last week in support of #BlackLivesMatter and #Baltimore and #FreddieGray (and all those who came before him, and so that none should follow him) ... and that it reads like this instead --
[I always thought that this speech was a long one. I was wrong, this is the entire text. Imagine a President today speaking this little and saying so very much with so few words...
"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 so 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."
November 19, 1863
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who having lost their lives 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 shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that the Right of The People to Due Process, before any agent of the Government take a citizen's life, liberty or property be applied to all of The People, equally.#2
I Have a DreamPerhaps the most significant political speech since Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech echoes down the years and it's full-throated cry for the promise of Equality for All to come to fruition is still as moving as the day he spoke these words to the nation, and to the world...
"I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children...."
"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
Martin Luther King Jr
August 28, 1963
JFK Inaugural Address
Kennedy began this first Inaugural Address: "We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom--symbolizing an end as well as a beginning--signifying renewal as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three quarters ago.
The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe--the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.
We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans--born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage--and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
This much we pledge--and more."
Kennedy concluded with the line which more than one American generation has now heard call them to civic duty of one sort or another:
"And so, my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country."
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