Fathers, sons, and Lincoln’s stand for liberty.
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Yet the image of that Civil War soldier so stayed with Jack that eventually he designed, illustrated and produced the book he had in his head — an illustration of the text of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. It was first published as the centennial of the Civil War came to an end.
“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,” said Lincoln, words Jack has paired with a photo of Union soldiers, standing at attention in the sun, blinking into the camera as they presumably wait for an order to move out, the living among the dead.
Unfinished work it was for the living of 1863 — and remains for the living of today and all the tomorrows yet to come.
The simple obviousness of new generations of Americans drives home the necessity of passing down to each the necessity to educate themselves in the basic founding doctrines and documents that have provided their ancestors with so much abundant opportunity. Like the young man Jack Levin there will always be young men and young women — the sons and daughters of America — who want the opportunity to follow their dreams as Jack followed his.
But without their equivalent of seeing that old soldier sitting on the back of a car in a Philadelphia Fourth of July parade, they — we — are terribly vulnerable to the arrogant assumption that liberty and freedom are a given. American ideals — the very heart of what allows so many millions of dreams to flower and flourish — come with a high price.
Sometimes, as in the case of the battles surely seen by that old Civil War soldier, the price is blood and treasure. Thankfully it is more often the hard work of a good education and hard work itself. Having an understanding of American history and exactly how and why a country committed to the ideals of liberty, equality and freedom was and remains unique — and being unique — prosperous.
Abraham Lincoln — he who never went to college yet had the basic grammar of America in his bones — understood this. Standing on that Gettysburg Battlefield in 1863, knowing the horrific sacrifices that had had been made on the ground before him— he used the opportunity to pledge ” 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 this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Those words, eloquent, elegant, filled with meaning — are always in danger of losing their meaning if not understood, as Lincoln understood them, in the context of American history. The actual photograph Jack Levin includes of Lincoln presumably delivering his speech amid the chaos of a jostling, packed crowd in a day before electricity and microphones is a reminder of just how difficult it might have been in the day for those actually in attendance to understand the import of Lincoln’s words.
“We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution,” said Jack Kennedy, with the same thought in mind that Jack Levin would express in book form five years following JFK’s inauguration.
As Father’s Day approaches, along with yet another anniversary of those terrible three days between July 1 and July 3, 1863, Jack Levin reminds yet again of all the sons — and now too the daughters — who have sacrificed so much for all of us to live every single day in the peace of liberty and freedom that is America.
Reading Jack Levin’s book, and of his own story, I am reminded yet again of my own father, missing now his fourth Father’s Day but who, in his almost ninety years, imparted the same exact lesson to this son which Jack Levin did to his.
Liberty — freedom — is the charge of every American generation. Sometimes to secure it, always to protect it.
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Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
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It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
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