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Sitting on a hill at Eldon Farm looking out at the beauty of Rappahannock County on a lovely Sunday evening a week ago, the words of a former president of the United States came to mind:
“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.”
Written by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 during the Civil War, and spoken during the dedication of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, his words evoked the promise of Thomas Jefferson's words written in the Declaration of Independence almost a hundred years earlier:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
In his remarks, Lincoln openly questioned whether that nation, or any nation “so conceived and so dedicated" could long endure. His question — answered in his time by the outcome of the American Civil War — remains as much a challenge for us today as a hope. Lincoln concluded his address with these words:
“It is for us the living . . . to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us here to be 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.”
More than 150 years later, Lincoln's words continue to challenge us to strive for that better nation. Let us resolve that “these honored dead” shall not have died in vain, as we commit ourselves to striving to create the kind of nation for which Lincoln yearned and gave his own life. The Fourth of July celebration this past weekend reminded us once again why it is that we pledge our allegiance to the United States of America — to “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”
So, let us here highly resolve to continue what Lincoln called "the unfinished work" by agreeing that:
— No one should live in fear because of the color of their skin, or the threat of racial persecution;
— No one should live in fear because of their sexual preference, or whom they choose to love;
— No one should live in fear because of their religious beliefs, or lack of religious belief;
— No one should live in fear because of what they think, or what they say, or what they believe;
— No one should live in fear because of their poverty, or lack of access to medical care.
Let us in Rappahannock County highly resolve that these honored dead shall not have died in vain — that “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” shall not perish from the earth.
— Gary Aichele earned his BA, JD and PhD at the University of Virginia. After practicing law in Charlottesville, he moved to Washington, DC, where as a Judicial Fellow he served as a special administrative assistant to Chief Justice Warren Burger at the Supreme Court, later becoming executive director of the Supreme Court Historical Society, among other positions in his career. A deacon and associate minister at Washington Baptist Church, he is chair of Headwaters, a member of the Rappahannock Rapidan Community Service Board, and a former member of the Town Council of Washington.
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