Address to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Abraham Lincoln’s Speech and how it pertains to the current situation of the United States, Part 1

There has been plenty of talk and chatter lately about the Occupy Wall Street protests and their ‘misguided and profane intentions.’ My intention is to bring forth the words of one of the country’s greatest orator and leader, and apply those words, his thoughts, to the intentions of our brothers and sisters in tents. I will go through each speech bit by bit and detail the connections to the present.

In 1838, just four short years after Lincoln was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives, he gave a speech in Springfield, Illinois to a young group of aspiring men on the topic of the Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions. In this speech he discussed the adversaries and influences of our government as he saw it shortly before the Civil War. The battle for the abolishment of slavery was just beginning, and the War was far in the future, but Lincoln was the whistleblower, claiming in 1838 that if nothing were to be done, our country would fall.

In the great journal of things happening under the sun, we, the American People, find our account running, under date of the ninetieth century of the Christian era. We find ourselves in the peaceful possession, of the fairest portion of the earth, as regards extent of territory, fertility of soil, and salubrity of climate. We find ourselves under the government of a system of political institution, conducing more essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty, than any of which the history of former times tells us.

While we do have some of the most fertile ground the earth has to offer, we do not have the infrastructure or the resources to support our breadbasket for much longer. We are depleting the Nebraskan Aquifer in the face of an imminent drought. The Great Plains will soon experience a drought with the magnitude of the Dust Bowl or worse if we do not learn to work with what the land gives us. In just 35 years, the Aquifer (roughly the size of Lake Huron) has dropped over 30 feet. This great lake in the middle of our country should be used only in times of severe drought to maintain the populace, not to turn a buck. If we do not stop this needless pillaging of resources, we are in effect killing future generations.

The Rocky Mountain snowpack is another example of our perilous actions. The runoff from the Rockies feeds the Colorado River, which is the artery of life to the entire South West. In the coming years, we will see this snowpack melt off at levels heretofore unseen due to the rising temperatures around the globe. While this will prove a bounty to farmers and cities when it seems that water is limitless, in reality it is the destruction of our current civilization. Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Diego, Phoenix, and many other major metropolis will be left in so severe a shortage of water that they will no longer be able to function. A city of 13 million cannot survive on 10 inches or less of annual rainfall. There is a way to rectify our current exploitation of resources, but it will not be easy, cheap, or quick. The time to start is now, we must prepare for our future – for in our own lifetimes this will all happen. Desalinization of ocean water is the only solution to this problem, and given the rise of sea level, no longer a poor idea. Los Angeles, San Diego, Bakersfield, and all other California cities receiving water from the Colorado must reverse their pipelines. Change the direction of water to change the fate of Southern California.

We are stealing from one state to pay the bounty for another without considering or caring about the consequences. Everyday we let these issues go unaddressed, we are destroying our land and our country.

Socially, the last sentence of this beginning section is the most troubling in current times. We are far behind those who we broke bonds with over 200 years ago. They have found ways to coexist better than we, they have learned tolerance better than we, they have progressed farther than we. Our country for the first time in it’s history is trailing others in regards to freedom and liberty. We are no longer the nation of the melting pot we claim to be. We no longer fight against domestic injustices as we should. The people have reached a grave sense of complacency that must be jarred out of them. We the People are now Me the Person.

We, when mounting the stage of existence, found ourselves the legal inheritors of these fundamental blessings. We toiled not in the acquirement or establishment of them – they are a legacy bequeathed us, by a once hardy, brave, and patriotic, but now lamented and departed race of ancestors. Their’s was the task (and nobly they performed it) to possess themselves, and through themselves, us, of this goodly land; and to uprear upon its hills and valleys, a political edifice of liberty and equal rights; ’tis ours only, to transmit these, the former, unprofaned by the foot of an invader; the latter, undecided by the lapse of time, and untorn by usurpation – to the latest generation that fate shall permit the world to know. This task of gratitude to our fathers, justice to ourselves, duty to prosperity, and love for our species in general, all imperatively require us faithfully to perform.

Lincoln could never have been aware of the monumental challenge of preserving the homeland in the 21st Century. He is reminding us of the honored dead who fought and sacrificed for our Independence, who separated us from Tyrannical rule and oppression. We honor those who came before us and sacrificed by maintaining not just our borders, but our domestic interests. Without a healthy and sustainable homeland, what is the point of defending it?


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