Monday, May 30, 2016

The Other Memorial Day Ceremony

Last night, word began spreading that the Memorial Day parade was canceled owing to the threat of rain, and the Memorial Day service, which traditionally takes place in Washington Square in front of the courthouse, would happen instead at the American Legion Post on Fairview Avenue. 

Not everyone got that message, and this morning, shortly after 10 a.m., people began gathering in Washington Square to wait for the parade to arrive. By 10:20, there were about twenty-five people sitting and standing about when it occurred to someone to call the American Legion to find out what was happening. That's when they learned that the service would begin in ten minutes . . . at the American Legion Post. For those who didn't want to rush to the top of Fairview Avenue, Peter Meyer, who lives just half a block away from the courthouse, offered to read the Gettysburg Address. The outcome was a moving, impromptu Memorial Day service, with no color guard or band or three-volley salute--just a four-minute speech read aloud. 

For readers who were not in Washington Square this morning, the text of the Gettysburg Address is provided below. There are few words more appropriate to ponder on this holiday.
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.  

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