On July 4th, we celebrate the birth of our great nation. We also celebrate the recurring rebirth of our common ideals. As Dwight D. Eisenhower observed: “The winning of freedom is not to be compared with the winning of a game—with the victory recorded forever in history. Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed—else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die.”
Here in Gettysburg, we especially remember all who have fought to preserve and protect our nation. Abraham Lincoln thought it his sacred duty to maintain that government which, although imperfect, was “the last best hope of earth.” Lincoln described the war as “a struggle for maintaining in the world, that form, and substance of government, whose leading object is, to elevate the condition of men . . ..” Lincoln sought to carry the torch of the founding fathers’ vision while recognizing it must evolve. Thus, he exhorted Americans to continue the “unfinished work” of those who sacrificed at Gettysburg so that our nation “shall have a new birth of freedom” and our government “shall not perish from the earth.”
While looking to the future, Lincoln also emphasized the need to honor and remember those who fought for our nation. He frequently spoke, at Gettysburg and elsewhere, of the brave soldiers who sacrificed for the country’s cause: “To you who render the hardest work in its support should be given the greatest credit.”
Today, as we enjoy July 4th festivities, we also pause to pay tribute to our veterans. The Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania, in coordination with Taps for Veterans and the Gettysburg National Military Park, sponsors 100 Nights of Taps, so that each summer evening Taps is played to honor those who served our nation. With great effort from the program organizers, 100 Nights of Taps continued virtually while the Soldier’s National Cemetery was closed for events. The Taps program recently returned to the beautiful and sacred Cemetery and will continue there as feasible. Visitors must follow all CDC and DOH guidelines including social distancing and the wearing of face masks. Please join us at the Cemetery any evening at 7:00 pm through Labor Day for this brief but powerful ceremony. Any updates will appear on the 100 Nights of Taps Facebook page.
And, as we observe July 4th, even if socially distanced, let us bear in mind all we have to celebrate as well as Lincoln’s call to continue the “unfinished work.” Reflecting on our nation’s history, Lincoln stated: “Of our political revolution of '76, we all are justly proud. It has given us a degree of political freedom, far exceeding that of any other nation of the earth. . . . In it was the germ which has vegetated, and still is to grow and expand into the universal liberty of mankind.”
Susan Iuliano is a Board Member of the Lincoln Fellowship of PA, which is committed to commemorating the Gettysburg Address during the annual Dedication Day ceremonies, supporting “100 Nights of Taps” at the Soldiers' National Cemetery, and other educational activities. To learn more and support these efforts, go to www.lincolnfellowship.org.