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US marks 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

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Abraham Lincoln had addressed the the call for the ‘new birth of freedom’ the turning point of US Civil War

US flagGettysburg: The Gettysburg Address, Abraham’s Lincoln’s undying call for a “new birth of freedom” at the bloody turning point of the US Civil War, turns 150 years old today, even as the union he fought to preserve quarrels bitterly over the role of government.

The anniversary celebrations at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, where Lincoln delivered the 272 words that now count as one of the most revered speeches in US history, are expected to attract dignitaries, tourists and Civil War buffs.

President Barack Obama, the country’s first African American president, is staying away, however, embroiled in a struggle to save his signature health care reforms.

Civil War historian James McPherson and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will give speeches, 21 immigrants will be sworn in as new US citizens, and an actor dressed as Lincoln will re-enact the famous address. Slavery, the Confederacy, the Union, the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, none rate so much as a mention in Lincoln’s restrained, eloquent text.

Yet in a little more than two minutes, Lincoln succeeded in re-centering the American project on the values of freedom, equality and democracy, less than a year after the emancipation of the slaves.

He pledged 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.”

Lincoln delivered the address on November 19, 1863, more than four months after the armies of Union General George Meade and his Confederate counterpart Robert E. Lee collided on July 1 in Gettysburg, a market town in rural Pennsylvania of little strategic importance.

After three days of fighting, more than 50,000 soldiers on both sides were dead, wounded or missing. Lee escaped with the remnants of his army, his bold gamble on an invasion of the North undone and the Confederate cause all but finished.

“The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here,” Lincoln said of the Union dead who “gave the last full measure of devotion.”


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