Today I was asked to speak at the Cost of Freedom Tribute in Kentwood, MI. This was a 5-day event honoring those who died in defense of our freedoms. I was asked to speak from my heart. Here’s what I said; I meant every word.
“I don’t think they do this in public schools any more, but when I was in high school in my government class, I had to memorize Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
Delivered at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, PA, 4 ½ months after the union victory there, Lincoln invoked the principles of human equality espoused by the Declaration of Independence and set as a goal for the nation “a new birth of freedom” that would bring true equality to all citizens and that our constitutional republic would remain a viable form of government. Here’s his 2 min speech—one of the greatest in our nation’s history:
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 cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot 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.
Lincoln’s goal was not just to consecrate the grounds of a cemetery, but also to exhort the listeners and the nation to ensure the survival of America’s constitutional republic, that the “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Today we’re here to honor those who died in the defense of our freedom and way of life; that’s what these memorials are for. It is right and just that we do this. Those who fought and lived paid the price, too. So did the family members of those who fought. We honor them, too.
But, to quote Lincoln again, “…that from these honored dead 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.”
Today our nation has only a tiny number of citizens who are willing to serve in defense of her; fewer than 1% of our nation is in uniform during this war. There is apparently no sense of obligation to defend our nation and our liberties. It’s either not important to most Americans, or it’s believed that someone else can or will do it. That’s not the attitude of a people who will stay free for long.
And the government of, by, and for the people thing. Most of our citizens don’t use the freedom to participate in government that we veterans fought to save for them. In a presidential election year we’re happy to get 60% of our citizens to vote; other years we’re delighted with 40%. And way too many of those who do vote, vote ignorantly. Anyone who puts all their trust in any political party is foolish. Those who always vote democratic or republican probably do so because it’s easier not to have to think; I don’t think I’ve ever voted a straight party ticket. Similarly, those who let some organization pick all their candidates for them have checked their brains—you and your candidate may be pro-life or pro-choice, but does your candidate understand economics? Do they understand how government works? For our Constitutional Republic to work, we the people have to get busy and pay attention to all candidates who want our votes. Primary elections are sometimes more important than general elections; is this taught in our schools? Apparently not.
According to all the polls, the Congress has an approval rating of around 10%; that’s horribly low. We don’t like what they’re doing. Yet the re-election rate for Congress-critters is 90%. Apparently we like our rep—it’s every else’s reps that are bad. No, no one pays attention to what any of our representatives do—city, state, or local. So we just keep blindly voting people in—without holding them accountable for anything. Does this make sense? Is this what these heroes died for?
We’re one nation under God. Doesn’t God require good stewardship? The declaration of independence says that our rights come from God. How are people good stewards of those rights if we ignore our government?
If you’re here today, you clearly care about our nation and its future. But there are so few of us here, that we aren’t enough to force sanity back into our government. I don’t care where you stand on the political spectrum. I do care that we need citizens, all of them, to care, really care about our freedoms and to participate in government. You know, government of and by the people. Not to be involved dishonors the honored dead that these memorials are dedicated to.
In conclusion, please, share the need to be fully involved—to the extent that you can possibly be—in this and every election process—voting for the person who best represents your values, regardless of the party or other affiliation. Share this with friends and families. Share it in your churches and associations. Most people in the world will never have any of our freedoms. We the people need to participate in our government as a way of honoring these who gave their lives. Thank you.”