A century and a half ago this week, one of the most profound, beautifully written speeches in the English language was delivered by President Abraham Lincoln. It was the Gettysburg Address, presented during ceremonies to dedicate a cemetery holding the remains of many of those who fell in the Civil War battle at that small Pennsylvania town.
Lincoln's words are remembered in part because of his masterful use of language, in a speech he, not a stable of professional White House speech writers, crafted.
But his reminder that Americans are stewards of a tradition of freedom looked up to by many others in the world has remained relevant, even though he spoke at a time when the nation's very existence was in doubt.
Ours is a government "of the people, by the people, for the people," Lincoln said at Gettysburg.
Since then, in both peace and war, there have been other tests of, as Lincoln put it, "whether any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure."
The United States of 1863 was deeply flawed. Lincoln understood that. But he would have had serious concerns about the nation today, too.
Throughout the world, there are those who hope our way of life can be destroyed or will collapse because of internal abuses. Lincoln's words remain a reminder how important it is for our ideals to prevail.