Amazon Deals

New at Amazon

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Obama Recites Gettysburg Address, Removes "Under God". Plus Thucydides!

Today is the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln's delivery of his few "brief remarks" at the dedication of the new national cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, only four or so months after the great Civil War battle there that emerged as "the high-water mark of the Confederacy." At the time, the final issue of the war was still in some doubt, and Lincoln received second billing to a lengthy speech by Dr. Edward Everett, then president of Harvard University and reputedly America's greatest orator. 

Everyone's familiar with the Gettysburg Address - didn't we all have to memorize it in grammar school? But in these troubled times, its mere 272 words remain well worth reading again. 

By the way, Garry Wills' brilliant study Lincoln at Gettysburg analyzes the Gettysburg Address in terms of its role in defining the ethos of our great nation for following generations, while also tracing the antecedents of Lincoln's argument and the structure of his peerless prose back to Thucydides' account of Pericles' 430 B.C funeral oration at the end of the first year of the Peloponnesian War. (Wills notes that despite the popular view that Lincoln generally preferred short, pithy utterances, the final sentence of the Gettysburg Address is 84 words long - almost a third of the whole.)

So, at WMAL:
WASHINGTON -- One nation under God? Under President Obama, maybe not so much.
In advance of the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address (full text below), which President Abraham Lincoln delivered on November 19, 1863, filmmaker Ken Burns gathered every living President, along with several prominent members of Congress, celebrities and news media stars to deliver the address themselves. Burns edited the individual speeches into one final mashup that is available on the site, but he also provided the complete speech as delivered by each individual dignitary. 
Curiously enough, in his version of the speech, President Barack Obama's delivery contained an omission - in a line that every other celebrity delivered as "that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom" (click here for proof of that), the President left out the words "under God."  
You can watch all of the speeches at
You can see the President's reading of the Gettysburg speech here - his omission is at the 1:35 mark:

Gettysburg Address full text:

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 other 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 died that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we do this.  But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot 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. 

- Abraham Lincoln ("The Gettysburg Address," 19 November 1863)

(Remarks at the top of this post taken from Ed's Quotation of the Day, only available via email.  Leave your email address in the comments if you'd like to be added to his distribution list.)

No comments:

Post a Comment