Today marks the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. President Obama, whom many compared to Lincoln back in 2008 (with Obama himself promoting the link), declined to travel to Gettysburg to mark the day. It is just as well.
In Gettysburg, Lincoln framed the Civil War as a grand struggle for liberty and equality. It was a war to keep intact the only “nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” He saw, when others did not, that if the Union fell, so too would the Constitution — and the rights that it guaranteed.
When he spoke, it remained to be seen whether the “nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.” A century and a half later, it is still an open question. Lincoln understood that if the Union won it would remain at risk because the struggle for freedom, which is largely a domestic struggle, has no end. The Gettysburg Address endures because it so beautifully expresses this idea.
In that never-ending struggle, President Obama is one of many Presidents who have been on the wrong side. Since FDR, no President has done more than this one to divide the nation for the purpose of expanding the power of the state over the individual. After Obama, there will be others.
It is a shame that America has in this anniversary year a President who cannot be bothered to pay his respects to the men who died to preserve the Union and the ideals on which it was founded. But it is a testament to the endurance of those ideals that no man or movement has yet undone them.