This Memorial Day, a New Birth of Freedom

May 30, 2021 Updated: June 7, 2021

On Memorial Day, we honor those soldiers who gave their lives for our country.

In the Gettysburg Address, perhaps the greatest reflection in our history on such sacrifice, Abraham Lincoln refers to the fallen soldiers as having given “the last full measure of devotion.”

In our nation’s present crisis, we can learn from the devotion of which Lincoln spoke more than 150 years ago.

Speaking after the Union had won a decisive battle, he begins his address by saying: “Fourscore 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.”

This Memorial Day we are, thankfully, not fighting a civil war, but we are nonetheless engaged in a struggle for the soul of our nation.

Dangerous new ideas are challenging whether we can remain a nation “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

Of course, the very meaning of equality is contested these days. Some seek to turn society in the direction of socialism in order to ensure we all have the exact same conditions of life.

The Declaration of Independence, which Lincoln highly admired, says we’re “created equal.” We are equal in that all possess God-given rights. These confer on us the right to pursue happiness, but they don’t guarantee anyone a particular outcome.

Critical race theory creates division in our nation, as it seeks to make us unequal.

It teaches that some of us are, by virtue of skin color, racists and oppressors, while others, by virtue of skin color, are morally superior.

The proponents of critical race theory often replace our traditional practices of liberty with coercion.

Individuals in corporations and schools are subjected to reeducation sessions reminiscent of China’s Cultural Revolution, in which they must confess their guilt. Those who don’t risk losing their jobs.

A new spirit of intolerance abounds in our land, and many refuse to give voice to their true beliefs for fear of being shunned, or worse.

Behind critical race theory lies the specter of Marxism, dressed in new clothes. It seeks to inflame the wounds our nation carries from past racism in hopes of bringing on a disease fatal to our free republic.

But this Memorial Day offers us the opportunity to begin healing our distressed nation.

Lincoln concludes his remarks at Gettysburg by saying: “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 here 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.”

This Memorial Day, we need to reflect deeply on the sacrifices of those we honor. They died in devotion to the idea of America, of a free country dedicated to the proposition of equality.

So let us now dedicate ourselves to a “new birth of freedom.” Doing so, we will, with our acts, honor our fallen heroes in the most fitting manner and safeguard the meaning of their sacrifice.

It goes without saying that as we work to revive the principles of equality and freedom, we do so steadfastly but without seeking to make enemies of those whose positions we oppose.

Near the end of the bloodiest war in our nation’s history, Lincoln was able to say, in his Second Inaugural Address, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation’s wounds.”

The strength of our republic lies in our “firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right.”

There are those—revolutionaries who seek to use our freedom to destroy that freedom—who wish the United States ill. These we oppose with all our might.

But the great majority of the advocates of critical race theory and other pernicious ideas are themselves the victims of bad education. While we are unrelenting in opposing their ideas, we treat them with charity. We understand that as poor ideas are replaced with better ones, everyone has a healthy role to play in realizing the destiny of our nation.