Even today, Lincolns words still ring true
Memorial Day messages are central to what we, as a nation, are all about
Since the time of the Civil War, we've set aside a day (first known as Decoration Day) to remember those who have given their lives defending this nation in battle.
And for many people, Monday was the unofficial start of the summer season, a day to gather with family and friends, head to the beach, fire up the grill or take advantage of sales.
But, as evidenced by events throughout Clackamas County and Oregon such as the services at Lake Oswego's Pioneer Cemetery, many people also used Memorial Day for its intended purpose. Since the time of the Civil War, we've set aside a day to remember those who have given their lives defending this nation in battle.
It is altogether fitting then, that we revisit the most famous speech associated with that conflict, the Gettysburg Address, given by president Abraham Lincoln, five years before the first official Decoration Day in 1868. His words still resonate today as our nation debates our ongoing wars abroad while honoring those who gave their lives in those, and previous, conflicts:
'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 battlefield 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.'