It seems fitting to pause from our regular celebration of the magic of the Chesapeake Bay watershed for a day more focused on memory.
We are in a moment – a long one – where loss is readily apparent, at a rate far higher than normal, from something we cannot see.
We grieve these incalculable losses. Losses of human beings. Each with their own story.
And, understandably, we also mourn the loss of normalcy in our own lives.
This has occurred before. From a different cause. More than once. Too often. Perhaps there is something to learn. Perhaps, in our own Chesapeake watershed words once spoken have deep meaning once again.
Another time. Another list.
And another. And another. And on and on …
Names, mostly of the young, mostly of men, who did not return to their Chesapeake watershed homes from World War II. Each name a story, now hard to find, easily forgotten. Remembered today abstractly, except in families where the tie still binds.
There was a coming together back then. We have perhaps heard tales of broadly shared sacrifice from our elders. Rationing. Limits. For year upon year.
That was not the only time, of course. Four score years prior, the Chesapeake region itself was torn asunder, a mirror of the nation. The reminders are among us at places we revere. Perhaps also a bit too abstractly today.
Ten sentences once spoken in a Chesapeake landscape consecrated a place of memory. But more importantly, the words were a calling, a challenge that continues on to our generation. Nothing about it is abstract.
Take this moment to re-read these lines. Or re-listen to them. They are the magic of this Monday. The calling is as clear as ever. The challenge to us all is still there.
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.
November 19, 1963