Sepia Saturday - Memorial Day

Memorial Day here for me has always been a special day. Not only do we honor those who died while in military service, but it also has been tagged as an unofficial start of summer even though the official start is still 21 days away. Originally Memorial Day was held on May 30th each year. Then someone in congress came up with the three day weekend concept. So now Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday of May. Many of our holidays are celebrated on Mondays. This three day weekend ends up being a huge travel weekend with clogged highways on Friday evening and Sunday afternoon. Memorial Day is also the day oil companies start raising gas prices for the summer.  Sadly Memorial Day observances have taken a backseat to beaches and barbecues.

Lincoln at Gettysburg
I can remember our town's Memorial Day observances always included a reading of the Gettysburg Address at the common. This was one of, if not the most famous speech of President Abraham Lincoln. It was given at the dedication the the Soldiers National Cemetery in Gettysburg on November 19, 1863 a mere four months after that fateful battle. Lincoln wasn't even given the role as a the keynote speaker. That speaker was Edward Everett from Massachusetts and his speech lasted two hours. Lincoln's speech lasted less than two minutes. It's his speech that inspired Memorial Day.

Gettysburg Address - President Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln's draft or reading copy of the Gettysburg Address
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 battle-field 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.

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