87 years after America’s Declaration of Independence, in a Pennsylvanian field, a tall man in a tall hat stood before a gathering and began a speech which, at the time went barely noticed. It began:
“Four score 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.”
We’ve all heard of the Gettysburg Address, or at least its first few sentences. But how many of you have heard or read those first few words and promptly tuned out? I have, until now.
“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. 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 honoured dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they 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.”
Pretty amazing, huh? The first time I read those next two paragraphs, I damn near cried. It has to be one of the best, most humble, yet powerful political speeches of all time. When was the last time you heard any politician, never mind the President of the United States, talk themselves down and talk the common man up that much and MEAN IT? Remember, this was in the middle of the American Civil War, the nation was torn in two and over half a million people died.
Reading those words it’s hard to believe that the civil war-winning, slave-freeing, vampire-hunting Lincoln was a Republican, especially when you see the sort of mind-set and policies his “Grand Old Party” have become infamous for today.
With our own local body elections coming up later this year, we have to prepare ourselves for a barrage of far less impressive political addresses. Expect the usual rhetoric, verbal promises that aren’t worth the paper they are written on and loads of “I, I, I, me, Me, ME” “Look at how much (little) we (Mayor Arnott & CEO Taylor/ Mayor Yule) have achieved” self-back-slapping. With the amalgamation debate on-going, we can also expect more of the usual Napier vs. Hastings petty parochialism that has plagued Hawke’s Bay for decades.
I sincerely hope we finally see some major changes in power in Hawke’s Bay in October. The region has been bogged down by the same people in the same positions for far too long. Hawke’s Bay needs someone more like Lincoln and a lot less like the currently entrenched bunch of beurocrats.
Hawke’s Bay deserves far better.