Thank you for indulging me in a moment of satire. For more serious fare, you can read my review of the 2012 movie Lincoln, a brief reflection on the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address, and my recommended list of essential Lincoln books.
News reports indicated that President Obama had opted to steer clear of the festivities surrounding the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s immortal Gettysburg Address. But at the last moment, searching desperately for some positive publicity to stimulate his flagging poll numbers, the Commander-in-Chief changed his mind.
Quietly trying to stay out of the limelight, and pull off a public relations surprise, Obama and his contingent of senior staff and security boarded the high-speed train from the nation’s capital to the rolling farm country of southern Pennsylvania. In a moment of solitude he reviewed the address his speechwriters had drafted for him mere hours ago.
But something about the speech – full of boilerplate historical accounts of a conflict most American students don’t even learn about anymore – didn’t resonate. “I need to come up with something that brings people back to a happier time, not this boring tripe,” he thought. So in the silence of a midnight train ride to Gettysburg, he took out some scrap pieces of paper, his ball point pen, and started from scratch:
Threescore months ago, my wonderful supporters elected me to fundamentally transform America, to erase the years of inequality our forefathers misconceived upon this continent. Now we are engaged in a great healthcare debate, testing whether that fundamental transformation can long endure.
Yes, we are met on some great battlefield of some long-forgotten war, but that shouldn’t stop us from reflecting on the truly momentous occasion before us. I have come to dedicate a portion of this field as a final resting place for those who lost their health insurance because the Republicans shut down the government out of their hateful spite for old people, sick people, people of color, gay people, and most everyone else.
But, in a larger sense, only I can dedicate, only I can consecrate, only I can hallow this ground. The pathetic troglodytes who traipse around here in their racist gray yahoo Civil War re-enactor costumes certainly couldn’t do it. Not least because their anti-progress agenda defunds public education so they’re not able to add or detract.
The world will little note, nor long remember, what they have done, but it can never forget what I say here. It is for us the living, the heirs of the Progressive dream, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which I thus far have so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from this unfortunate collateral damage we take increased devotion to that cause which will drive me to my last ounce of political devotion – that we here highly resolve that the Americans who have lost their health insurance coverage while waiting for our website to serve them, have not died in vain – that this nation, under me, shall have a new birth of governmental adoration – and that Affordable Care Act of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth!
“Next stop… Gettysburg!” the voice droned over the loudspeaker. And the president, a satisfied smirk on his face, shut his eyes for a moment of rest and reflection. “You’ve really outdone yourself this time,” he muttered to himself. “See Joe Biden try to write a speech like that!”
The sesquicentennial would wish there had never been such a surprise. Compared to this display, the original Gettysburg Address stands tall for generations to come.