272 Words

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum asked a number of people to contribute a document some 272 words in length as part of an exhibit marking the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. The invitees included Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, Stephen Spielberg, Julian Bond, and Nikki Giovanni, to name a few well-known names, as well as a number of lesser-known people … including me.

As the instructions put it:

If you wish to participate, we ask that you write on one of three topics:  1) Abraham Lincoln, 2) Gettysburg/Gettysburg Address or 3) any cause-related topic which inspires your passion. In the Lincoln tradition, you must express yourself in only “272 Words” — no more, no less.

Here’s what one well-known Lincoln scholar sent.

So this is what I sent:

Seven score and ten years ago a tall gaunt figure rose on an autumn afternoon to help dedicate the final resting place of Americans who had fought and died so that their nation—and all that it stood for—might live. As his words echoed across the freshly-dug graves of those who had given the last full measure of devotion to that cause, he reaffirmed his commitment to continue the struggle so that those men would not have died in vain.

We today still remember those words and the man who spoke them. We have never forgotten what he said there on a battlefield of that war. But we must rededicate ourselves to rising to the challenge of meeting the great task remaining before us. Otherwise, those men will have died in vain for a cause that we failed to sustain.

We today must remind ourselves that the struggle continues long after those guns fell silent. If the blood shed during four years of terrible war was necessary to secure a new birth of freedom, achieving the promise of that freedom remains our unfinished work. It is not enough to pledge ourselves to ensure that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from this earth. We must remain dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal, and we must renew our commitment to realizing that equality is essential to realize fully for all the liberty and freedom we seek to preserve and protect. Let us embrace that proposition completely so that we can be as good as his word and be true to ourselves.

Different strokes for different folks …

How would you respond to this assignment? What would you say?