Twelve score and six years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation. The idea was a radical one. It’s been deemed the Great Experiment. It gave birth to America; These United States. This experiment has been tested, many times.
Eight score, save a year, ago, nearly to the day, President Abraham Lincoln spoke those historic 272 words that so eloquently framed the dire situation our nation faced. The location was a place called Gettysburg. Lincoln was physically in the moment. But his heart, mind and vision were fixated on the future. Less than a century old, the outlook of the nation absolutely wavered in the wind. The year was 1863. These United States, they were not.
America was in the midst of a great Civil War. Our sixteenth President carried the weight of the nation’s conflict on his mind and his shoulders. Lincoln aged decades in just 3 years’ time. You could see it in his eyes and in his face. You could hear it in his voice. He was a man broken down, but refused to break.
Abraham Lincoln lived a life for others and not himself. His was a higher calling. Lincoln met the moment. We are so grateful. We are so thankful, for that, for him.
President Lincoln’s fight was not to destroy half the country. The fight was to preserve its union. America was indeed a great experiment. And the experiment was failing. He viewed the period as “the last best hope of Earth.” It was theirs to win or lose.
Lincoln was keenly aware that winning the war meant nothing without winning the peace. With malice toward none. With charity toward all. Finish the work and rebuild together. It was a consequential and worthy fight. The stakes had never been so high. The never-ending construction continues today.
The fact is, America is not perfect. It is so far from it. But the beauty of America is that we admit the imperfections up front and commit to being more perfect. No other nation does.
Our two-and-a-half-century history has shown that despite the many struggles, America has managed to get just enough right to keep pushing forward. We have proved it to ourselves and the world with a sense of pride. America has been called a beacon of hope; A shining light.
America is complicated. America is tough. A government of the people, by the people, for the people requires cooperation. It requires everyone’s support and participation. It has to work for all. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is America’s calling. It’s not guaranteed. You can’t just show up. You have to do stuff. Individual achievement is a requirement too.
Largely self-educated, Abraham Lincoln was an avid reader. He had less than 1 year of formal schooling. Words he lived by from one of his favorite books, The English Reader: “In judging others, let us always think the best and employ the spirit of charity and candor. But in judging of ourselves, we ought to be exact and severe.” Lincoln believed it essential that we hold ourselves accountable.
In 1863, President Lincoln set a national Thanksgiving by proclamation for the final Thursday in November. His goal was to honor and celebrate the Union good fortunes and for the military successes in the war. Due to the war, a national holiday was not observed until the Reconstruction in the 1870s. Lincoln was not there to see it.
Democracies can’t long endure if the people don’t trust the system. Rules need to be fair, understood and followed. Leaders need to lead. Leaders need to care for and look out for the masses. Leaders need to lead by example. Respect for others is a critical requirement. Respect needs friends. Cooperation cannot be considered a negative word.
On the evening of Good Friday, 1865, Abraham Lincoln left the White House for Ford’s Theatre. He never returned. He left this world. He also left an important legacy, one that has been celebrated and embraced far beyond his 56 years on Earth. Abraham Lincoln was a good man who became a great President, perhaps the greatest we’ve ever had. Lincoln liked to say, “I may advance slowly. But I don’t walk backwards.” Lincoln faced forward.
These are indeed challenging times. But challenge brings opportunity. They test mettle. They can bring out the best in people. Collaboration with purpose. Shared values and vision. As I say to my team all the time: The Road to Success is always under construction. We believe it. We commit to it. You are our professional purpose. We at Bedell Frazier are so thankful for you.
I leave you with Abe Lincoln’s most famous speech, his Gettysburg Address. It achieved legendary status in an instant. These are his words as he intended and delivered on that cool November day.
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.
Abraham Lincoln November 19, 1863
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Bedell Frazier.
Our office will be closed Thursday and Friday. We will be back, dark and early on Monday.