Vergeet JFK, Lincoln is de man

Kennedy, Clinton, Obama: zij allen staan in de schaduw van die ene écht grote president, Lincoln. Wilfred Takken herdenkt hem, 150 jaar na een grootse toespraak.

De president op het slagveld van Gettysburg. Scène uit de film Lincoln van Steven Spielberg (2012), met Daniel Day-Lewis als president Lincoln. Foto AP

Twee minuten slechts sprak president Abraham Lincoln op 19 november 1865, vandaag 150 jaar geleden. Zijn speech, uitgesproken bij de wijding van een monument voor de doden in de Slag bij Gettysburg, heeft in de Amerikaanse geschiedenis iconische betekenis gekregen. Lincoln verwoordde, enkele maanden na de grootste en bloedigste slag uit de Amerikaanse Burgeroorlog (1861-1865), waarom de Verenigde Staten ooit waren opgericht. Generaties schoolkinderen hebben zijn toespraak uit hun hoofd moeten leren.

Dit is wat Abraham Lincoln zei:

‘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 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.’