Holiday calls on us to honor, unite, look ahead
November 11, 2008
Seven score and five years ago, an embattled Abraham Lincoln traveled to rural Pennsylvania to dedicate a national cemetery.
Lincoln went to Gettysburg to explain to a war-weary nation that even more sacrifice would be required in the days ahead so a stronger, perpetual Union could prevail.
This trip constituted a remarkable act of courage for a commander-in-chief during a time of open civil war. Confederate sympathizers lurked everywhere; even loyal citizens were potential threats because of their deep frustration with a war that few understood.
Lincoln chose that dedication ceremony as the backdrop to ask his country - and the world - a question that will endure through the ages.
On that crisp morning, Nov. 19, 1863, Lincoln asked whether a nation founded upon the ideals of democracy could survive grave crisis.
His answer echoes still.
Standing in the silent shade of courage, Lincoln articulated a belief in the uncommon valor of ordinary citizens: He revealed a deep faith in the essential nature and enduring power of a nation constructed "of, by, and for the people."
At Gettysburg, Lincoln invited his country to answer the call of service; that his America be worthy of the sacrifice freely given by the men who struggled on the grounds upon which they stood.
This year we can rekindle the spirit of Lincoln's message.
Today is Veterans Day. It is a day to remember. To remember the meaning of duty, the costs of freedom and the patriots who defend our ideals at home and abroad.
America will celebrate this holiday while still at war. Our troops are fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq and across the globe because we sent them. We must never forget them.
Their devotion has hallowed our America.
Their sacrifice has ensured that we will witness a peaceful transition of power during a time of war - the first in 40 years. Few nations would attempt it; fewer still could succeed.
For all our challenges, for all our missed opportunities, our America - the America that Lincoln preserved, the America that seven successive generations have protected - remains a nation that places its trust in the ballot instead of the bullet.
The long election campaign that concluded last week symbolizes both the gift and the challenge of democracy. We engaged that campaign vigorously and we are stronger and wiser for it. Now we must unite and jointly set a new course.
Our ship of state faces heavy seas. We must simultaneously revitalize our economy, repair our relationships across the globe and reform our government. We must renew our America.
We have navigated troubled waters before and we will again. Our national character reveals itself in crisis; since Gettysburg, the United States of America has encountered economic collapse, global wars, natural disasters and the stresses of a rapidly changing world.
We have emerged thriving from every challenge.
This Nov. 11, let us honor the sacrifice of the men and women who have consecrated our ideals. Let us, together, renew the promise of our America.
Paul Evans of Monmouth is an Air Force veteran who served in Iraq (2003, 2005) and Afghanistan (2006). He can be reached at Oldschoolgtacs@aol.com.