In President Abraham Lincoln’s famous “Gettysburg Address” in November of 1863, he wound up his short speech by exclaiming that the living be dedicated to and increase their devotion to the “unfinished work” that the brave soldiers died for: that a government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth. Almost 150 years later, our country seems still at odds about what that kind of government really means.
Of the people? That could mean the voters electing fellow citizens to office. By the People? Those same voters having a say in what their government does or doesn’t do via their votes or support of a candidate for office. But what of For the People? What exactly does that mean? And is “the” people referring to ALL the people or a chosen few? Is it a call to Socialism, whereas the government exists to better it’s country’s residents individually and collectively? Perhaps by taking care of every single citizen by way of human rights, education, fire/police/disaster aid and even health care while creating and maintaining infrastructure and protecting the environment with a macro view of the betterment of the populace?
While that would be an easy and somewhat fitting definition from a liberal point of view, the idea of “for the people” cannot so easily be defined in the right wing/Tea Party realm. Not one thing they suggest for this country seems designed “for” the people, unless you are the fortunate people in the top 1% of our economic strata. So what of Lincoln’s wise words? After all, he was the first Republican president and one of the highest regarded in history (number 1-3 in every poll). For some added perspective, let’s add some wisdom from that oft-mentioned and quite wonderful document, The U.S. Constitution, specifically the Preamble:
The Preamble is generally used to interpret the meaning of the Constitution as a whole, giving it an underlying purpose and reason for existing. And much like the Gettysburg address, it’s quite succinct. It tells us that in order to form “a more perfect Union” while establishing Justice, insuring domestic Tranquility and providing for the common defence (spelled as such) we must also “promote the general Welfare.” As a nice bonus, we also secure the “Blessings of Liberty” to ourselves and our Posterity. Then We the People of the USA (meaning those people writing the Constitution at the time) ordained and established the Constitution for our country’s then and future residents.
Sounds pretty cool overall, considering the time and place it was written. Slavery was still in place and women’s rights lagged far behind their male counterparts.
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