Abraham Lincoln’s 272-word Gettysburg Address remains as powerful, compelling and true today as when he delivered it in 1863. It reminds us that our country was founded on the compelling principles of liberty and equality, that good men perished in pursuit of this worthy cause and that as a nation we must continue to “highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. . . that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Last year, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation published a book,“Gettysburg Replies,” containing 272-word essays responding to the Gettysburg address from modern-day political, business, academic and business leaders – including all living U.S. Presidents and Stephen Spielberg. They reveal the intense hold this speech still has on our collective American psyche.
Three contributors to “Gettysburg Replies” recently taped a WTTW/PBS television show at the Pritzker Military Library with the CEO of the Lincoln Library, who also edited Gettysburg Replies, Carla Knorowski, Ph.D. I enjoyed the good fortune of being in the small audience for the taping – particularly because I am a fan of all three contributors – Newt Minnow, former FCC Chairman and longtime Sidley Austin partner; Sam Harris, Holocaust survivor, proud American citizen, Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center Founder and New Trier Alumni Hall Of Honor inductee; US Air Force Major General John Borling, a pilot shot down and imprisoned for seven-and-a-half years during the Vietnam War and published poet.
Borling deeply inspired me when I interviewed him for the Make It Better “Men We Love” issue in June 2013. But his recitation of the Gettysburg Address at the taping took my admiration to new heights. I doubt there was a dry eye in the audience afterwards.
Minnow declared that “General John Borling’s recitation of the Gettysburg Address is unforgettable. It should be heard in every classroom in America; students should be told how General Borling survived being a prisoner in Vietnam by reflecting on President Lincoln’s historic definition of democracy.” And I agree.
Therefore, please stop, drop and watch this short video clip from the taping of the General reciting the Gettysburg Address to enjoy a most inspiring reminder of what it means to be an American:
Sam Harris’ essay “The Best Place On Earth,” which he discusses in the show and you can read in this recent Make It Better post about Lincoln’s legacy, is another reminder for us, too. It was written by him in 1951, only a few years after he had escaped the concentration camps. He explains, “I had written this essay as an assignment at New Trier High School, when I was a sophomore…[then entered it] in the Lincoln Essay Contest when I was in my late 70s and I still think the United States is the best place on earth.”
Be sure to watch:
“PRITZKER MILITARY PRESENTS: GETTYSBURG REPLIES”
Premiering Sunday, February 21, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. CST on WYCC-20, Chicago and online at PritzkerMilitary.org/GettysburgReplies