Cowboy Wisdom for the Week

Friday, November 22, 2013
by Patrick Dorinson

This week we commemorate two historical events that shaped America.

First was the 150th Anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

The scant media attention it received was only that President Obama decided not to attend the commemoration so he could work on fixing the Obamacare website according to one of his mouthpieces.

The second is the 50th Anniversary of the Assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

The President laid a wreath at JFK’s grave accompanied by the Clintons, awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 16 Americans and personally called Democratic senators to support the “nuclear option” that Harry Reid triggered on Thursday.

I guess the website got fixed.

Lincoln’s address has receded into history so much so that when a reporter went to American University in Washington, one of the nation’s  prestigious institution of higher learning, most students had no idea or vague ideas as to what the Gettysburg Address was.

Perhaps it is just too far in the past or their education about American history is deficient.

When I was in school, reciting the famous words of Lincoln was required as part of our civic education. And while some say that rote teaching is old fashioned, we also learned the meaning that surrounded that event.

And since there are no living survivors of the speech that can go on television and describe what it was like to hear Lincoln’s short but powerful message, it is likely to recede even further into the nation’s collective memory.

The Kennedy Assassination was only 50 years ago and there are many major players and reporters still alive who were actually in Dallas that fateful day that are appearing on television to relay their memories.

And there are also millions of Americans like myself who were old enough to remember exactly where they were that November afternoon in 1963.

For us the memory, while fading, still has a certain meaningfulness and poignancy.

The 50th Anniversary of D-Day and Pearl Harbor were big events for the same reason. There were many still alive at the time who had those dates seared into their memories.

But as the years have gone by and the survivors and witnesses of those two seminal events in the story of our country pass into history, so has the commemoration of those events.

Yes, they will continue to be commemorated as historical events, but in the future they will not have the same impact that they once did.

We don’t teach our history very well in America and future generations will look at D-Day and Pearl Harbor as small things that are detached from their everyday lives.

Will it be the same with the Kennedy Assassination?

As the years put distance between the event and those who were alive or actually participants, will there be large commemorations for the 60th or 70th, as there has been for the 50th?

Only time will tell but if history is any judge as the 60s generation passes from this earth, it too will become a distant memory.

Will a President in 2063 commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Kennedy Assassination or give a speech in 2113 when it reaches the same age as the Gettysburg Address?

Who knows.  Predicting the future is a fool’s enterprise. But we should remember the words that these two men once spoke and their meaning to American history.

So here is your Cowboy Wisdom for the Week. And this week we have two messages.

The first is from the Gettysburg Address of Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican ever elected President.

 “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”.

 

The second is one simple sentence from Democrat John F. Kennedy’s first and only inaugural address.

 “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.

 Let us all hope during this weekend of reflection that this nation can rise to its challenges and not “perish from the earth”.

 

And let us also continue to ask ourselves not what the government will “do” for me but what we can all do so we can leave America a little better for our children and grandchildren.