I linger on these few words that have helped define our American experiment: "a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."
Through the lines of weariness etched in his face, we know Lincoln grasped, perhaps more than anyone, the burdens required to give these words meaning. He knew that even a self evident truth was not self executing; that blood drawn by the lash was an affront to our ideals; that blood drawn by the sword was in painful service to those same ideals.
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.
This quintessentially self made man, fierce in his belief in honest work and the striving spirit at the heart of America, believed that it falls to each generation, collectively, to share in that toil and sacrifice.
Through cold war and world war, through industrial revolutions and technological transformations, through movements for civil rights and women's rights and workers rights and gay rights, we have.
The part of the ceremony that provoked the most positive crowd reaction was led by Justice Scalia. I doubt that picking him for the job was an offset to that gay rights comment, but you never know. Sixteen people from thirteen different countries were sworn in as American citizens. It was mentioned that Justice Scalia's father was an immigrant. He talked about what great opportunities there are in America and that his grandmother wanted him to grow up to President, so he was a bit of a let down. I thought it was a little insensitive to bring up about the only thing that the new citizens did not just become eligible for, but nobody seemed to mind. Among the countries listed were Canada and the United Kingdom. I wonder if they are fleeing the horrors of national health care. Also included was Burkina Faso, which I have to confess I had never heard of. It turns out that it was called the Republic of Upper Volta back when I was collecting stamps, which is the source of much of my lamentably deficient geographic knowledge. When our new fellow Americans were done abjuring all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign princes or potentates, the crowd gave them a standing ovation.