Laguna Beach was privileged to host Dr. Ronald White, a Lincoln and Grant biographer and Presbyterian Minister, for a series of lectures and a sermon on leadership the first weekend in August. Sunday’s sermon was given to a packed Laguna Presbyterian Church and was a remarkable retelling of America’s Sermon on the Mount, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. At the end of the sermon, we stood as a congregation and recited the final paragraph of the speech; a call to heal, an imperative, the American Imperative.
The entire speech is a Google search away and worth the five minutes to read what can happen to a people so divided and so believing they are on the right side of God, they are willing to die for it. While short in length, slightly longer than this letter, the address is an anti-triumphant statement of history that neither the North nor the South wanted war, and both were equally responsible for war; as Lincoln said, “And the war came.”
What follows is an unrepentant recitation of the need to end America’s original sin, slavery. A sin that broke every covenant that ties us together as human beings and with which we still struggle to this day. Lincoln makes it clear that he was willing to risk the death of the nation to end the ability of one man to enslave other.
The final 74 words, the final paragraph, are some of the most important in American history. Through this declaration, he provides a road map for healing, an imperative, for all Americans to use in times of division. Lincoln knows that his generation is broken, and that future generations of Americans can be broken too. He also knows that if you vilify your fellow man, healing will never come.
As we rise to voice our opinion on all issues impacting our families, city, nation and the world, I pray that we follow Lincoln and affirm, “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, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
John Gabbard, Laguna Beach