Great Man, Great Words

Our greatest president was born 203 years ago today. It seems a good reason to read, once again, some of his most meaningful words — read them slowly and meticulously, perhaps almost saying them aloud as he did.

The Address at Gettysburg (November 19, 1863):

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon 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 here on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it 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 can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, thus far, so nobly carried on. 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 here gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

And, from his Second Inaugural Address (March 4, 1865):

Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.


Best lines of someone born 306 years ago today

  • The use of money is all the advantage there is in having money.
  • He is not well-bred, that cannot bear ill-breeding in others.
  • You may talk too much on the best of subjects.
  • A good conscience is a continual Christmas.
  • All would live long, but none would be old.
  • One today is worth two tomorrows.
  • Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.
  • Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
  • Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.
  • Certainty? In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.
  • Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.
  • Many people die at twenty five and aren’t buried until they are seventy five.
  • I should have no objection to go over the same life from its beginning to the end: requesting only the advantage authors have, of correcting in a second edition the faults of the first.
  • If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing.
  • I wake up every morning at nine and grab for the morning paper. Then I look at the obituary page. If my name is not on it, I get up.

Benjamin Franklin


Tatanka-Iyotanka

… was killed on this date in 1890.

Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull was a Hunkpapa Lakota chief and holy man. He was born around 1831 on the Grand River in present-day South Dakota. He became a warrior in a battle with the Crow at age 14, subsequently becoming renowned for his courage in fights with the U.S. Army.

In 1874, an expedition led by George Armstrong Custer confirmed the discovery of gold in the Black Hills, an area that had been declared off-limits to white settlement by the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. When efforts by the government to purchase the Black Hills failed, the Fort Laramie Treaty was abrogated. All Lakota not settled on reservations by January 31, 1876, would be considered hostile. Sitting Bull led his people in holding their ground.

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Walt Disney

… died from lung cancer on this date in 1966. He was 65.

Mickey.gifThe Walt Disney Family Museum formerly provided in-depth background.

Was Walt frozen?

No researcher has discovered where this myth began, but it certainly is widespread. Quite the opposite, Walt’s daughter Diane recalls that her father spoke frequently about his desire to be cremated — and in fact he was. When Disney archivist Robert Tieman researched the issue, he discovered that the first attempts at freezing a person weren’t even discussed until after Walt’s death. In any case, the people who knew Walt and loved him never heard him utter a word about trying it out himself. What’s more, his family lingered around him for some time after his death. No white-smocked physicians rushed his body off to some kind of freezing chamber as would undoubtedly have been the case if he was being preserved.


The Gettysburg Address

President Abraham Lincoln, 148 years ago yesterday (1863):

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 battlefield 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 cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot 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.

Library of Congress Exhibition on The Gettysburg Address


Chuck Berry

… is 85 today. I’ve been busy celebrating the national holiday.

You? What have you done to celebrate the birthday of this Great American?

While no individual can be said to have invented rock and roll, Chuck Berry comes the closest of any single figure to being the one who put all the essential pieces together. It was his particular genius to graft country & western guitar licks onto a rhythm & blues chassis in his very first single, “Maybellene.” Combined with quick-witted, rapid-fire lyrics full of sly insinuations about cars and girls, Berry laid the groundwork for not only a rock and roll sound but a rock and roll stance. The song included a brief but scorching guitar solo built around his trademark double-string licks. Accompanied by long-time piano player Johnnie Johnson and members of the Chess Records house band, including Willie Dixon, Berry wrote and performed rock and roll for the ages. To this day, the cream of Berry’s repertoire—which includes “Johnny B. Goode,” “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “Rock and Roll Music” and “Roll Over Beethoven”—is required listening for any serious rock fan and required learning for any serious rock musician.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame