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Secretary Jewell at Gettysburg Address 150th Anniversary


November 19, 2013


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In the spirit of President Lincoln, and out of respect for all of you who are huddled here on this cold morning, I am going to commemorate the legacy of Gettysburg just as Lauren did a few minutes ago in 272 words.

 

One hundred fifty years ago, Abraham Lincoln said, “the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here.” He was wrong. Just as the battle that raged on these fields stands at the vortex of American history, Lincoln’s words stand at the vortex of our national consciousness.

 

Hearing them, we are reminded of the sacrifice of so many for freedom. We are likewise reminded of our long journey, still on-going, to fulfill the fundamental proposition that indeed all men and women are created equal and deserve the full benefit of this freedom that has been purchased at such great price.

 

The steps on this journey are marked by eloquence. The patriot who regretted he had but one life to give for his country. The president who affirmed our resolve on a day that will live in infamy. The courageous woman whose simple “No” on an Alabama bus gave birth to choruses of “We Shall Overcome.” The passenger above another Pennsylvania field, who declared “Let’s Roll,” giving voice to a nation battered by terrorism.

 

But no words are greater than those spoken here by a simple man, born in a log cabin, who not only saved the American union but also came to symbolize its greatest virtues of humility, honesty, and decency.

 

His words, chiseled on the walls of his memorial, are likewise chiseled on our hearts. They tell us what it means to be an American. They call us to unfinished work, not just to win a war, but to continue to perfect our nation and a government that is truly “of the people, by the people, for the people.”