Armistice Day – Remembrance is Not Enough

On November 19th, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln, stood at the battlefield of Gettysburg at an event to consecrate the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. He was not the main speaker at the event, Edward Everett a fellow politician had spoken for 2-hours before Lincoln rose to his feet.  When Lincoln finally rose to his feet, his speech lasted a few minutes and constituted less than 300 words.  Lincoln himself considered the speech a failure and the Crowd’s reaction was polite.  Now known as the Gettysburg address it is one of the most famous speeches in American History and one of the profoundest statements on how we should frame our relationship to those who paid the full measure of sacrifice with their lives.

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 battle-field 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 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 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.

 – Abaham Lincoln

November 11th marks the annual point at which we too remember our fallen.  In services of remembrance across the nation we come together to remember the sacrifice of those who lost their lives in war.  And yet as Lincoln’s address points out it is for the living to be rededicated.  Remembrance is not enough.

The sculptural outline of Tommies heads bowed with sloped arms – ‘there but not there, is both invitation and challenge to fill the space that every life left.  Have we done enough, are we doing enough to pay our debt?


‘What you leave behind you is not what is engraved in stone monuments but what is woven into the lives of others’.  Pericles

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