The Gettysburg Address
November 19, 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.
1. What two American ideals seem most important to Abraham Lincoln? How do you know? Do you agree with him?
2. Why does Lincoln believe it is impossible for the battlefield to be made more sacred than it already is?
3. What challenge does Lincoln propose for the future? Why is honoring the dead connected to that challenge?
4. Find two examples of refrains in Lincoln’s speech. What idea is he trying to emphasize in each case? Why are the two ideas important?
Extending the Text
5. What does Lincoln mean when he describes U.S. democracy as “government of the people, by the people, for the people”? What do you think people under voting age can do today to help make Lincoln’s vision a reality?
6. Has the United States lived up to the ideals Lincoln describes in the Gettysburg Address? Give examples from history or current events to support your opinion.
7. In your opinion, what would a “new birth of freedom” in the United States today be like? (What changes would we see in our government? schools? communities?)
Challenging the Text
8. Do you think the Gettysburg Address is easy to understand? Support your opinion with examples from the text. Which passages, if any, gave you trouble?
Back to the Table of Contents