Lincoln’s little speech


One hundred fifty years ago today, a Massachusetts guy named Edward Everett delivered an important speech at the dedication of a military cemetery on a Pennsylvania battlefield of the War between the States. Everett had served his country as a US representative, senator, governor of Massachusetts, secretary of state, and president of Harvard  University. Now at the end of his career, he was still a powerful speaker. His remarks went on for two solid hours on a cold November day.

When Everett finally sat down, the president of the United States stood up to offer a few thoughts. Ten sentences and two minutes later, he was finished.

Schoolchildren used to be expected to memorize–and recite!–Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. It was one of those things that marked you out as a citizen with some notion of what this country was about.

I don’t know if schools do that anymore. Pity if they don’t.

When this English-made souvenir plate was brand-spankin’-new, there were still plenty of living soldiers who’d fought at Gettysburg. Plenty of guys who had stories to tell to grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

It’s tantalizing to think that this plate might even have been owned by someone who’d been there at Gettysburg . . . a century and a half ago.

How close we can be to the past sometimes.

And yet how far.