U.S. Senator Richard J. Durbin
Monday, November 19, 2001
Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania
138th Anniversary of Gettysburg Address
Today, our nation is again at war. The wounds of September have not fully healed, and across America we wait for our enemies to strike again. As in Lincoln’s day, our nation is being tested.
But as Lincoln came to Gettysburg to remind us that the brave men who struggled on this battlefield blessed this ground, we gather today mindful of the courage we have seen since September 11, a courage that has blessed this nation.
Firefighters racing into the inferno of the World Trade Center, giving their lives to lead others to safety. Policemen standing their ground to protect innocent people as the buildings crashed around them. Rescue workers and volunteers reaching out to help others in danger, defying every human instinct to survive, our sons and daughters in uniform serving our country at home and abroad. And over a grassy field in Western Pennsylvania ordinary Americans who summoned the courage to wrest a deadly missile from the hands of our enemies.
These acts of bravery and love are forever part of the story of America.
In Lincoln’s day his great civil war was waged over the issue of our union. Today our war is waged over the issue of our values. Our enemies attack us for who we are and what we believe. The very freedoms we love inspire their hatred.
When Lincoln spoke here he did more than summon courage in battle, he summoned a new nation dedicated to our first values. As we wage our war against the enemy of terrorism we can do no less.
In defending America we cannot forget that we are a nation of immigrants, people who came to our shores from faraway lands and in their diversity of culture and creed enriched our common life.
In bringing the terrorists to justice we cannot ignore our constitution and the civil liberties it protects.
In protecting our people we cannot destroy a society both open and vulnerable which makes America truly a free land.
Like Lincoln, our President came to Washington without a clear election mandate. Like Lincoln, he came without great experience and untested in war. But like Lincoln, he has learned quickly in office. And on Capitol Hill, a fractious Congress has closed ranks behind the president to win this war and to prove that our patriotism is greater than our partisanship.
In the heat of this battle it is also important to remember that Lincoln sought to temper firmness and righteousness with humility. He called on our nation to look up from the devastation and division of war to a higher purpose, with malice toward none with charity for all.
Lincoln did not live to see his greatest legacy: a union that has endured. But as certain as we gather in Lincoln’s memory facing our test, waging our war as a nation reunited by adversity, we can pledge to future generations that we too will prevail, we too will remember those who have fallen we too will dedicate ourselves to the unfinished work of America.
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