In the mid-60s, I was walking along the dusty main street of Garber, Okla., an oil, cattle and wheat town of 905 people, and went into the town's drugstore hoping to find a book to read. It seemed unlikely, but I'd try.
"Our Town," Thornton Wilder's three-act play set in a small town in New Hampshire a century ago, turns 75 Tuesday. It was Jan. 22, 1938, when the main character, the Stage Manager, first guided an audience through the play - staged at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, N.J.
Gather together a few friends today, friends who love words and freedom and American history, and revisit a high peak in our long struggle to move closer to the ideals of the Declaration: The dedication of the Soldier's National Cemetery at Gettysburg on Nov. 19, 1863, 149 years ago Monday.
My wife, Janie, came early in life to her love of poetry and reading, a gift from her grandmother, Cora Lee Stull Blakeman. "Granny," who attended a one-room school in the Appalachian section of Kentucky, could recite scores of poems "by heart," by the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Walt Whitman.
Joan King ("Faith Gone Wrong Can Lead to War," June 16) is right about blood flowing freely in the Old Testament. Of course there's much more as well: truth and wisdom; great poetry; the thoughtful puzzling of men and women over God's will and ways; stories about the Israelites and their relationship to God, one another, and the peoples around them.
Americans love democracy, but mostly hate politics. Many would rid us of politics if they could. They say things like: "We'll never get good government until we get rid of all the politics and politicians."
"Yours of the 25th suggesting the names of Col. Fremont, and Messrs. Hunt, Raynor, and Gilmer for places in the Cabinet is received. I had thought of all of them before, but not very definitely of any except Mr. Gilmer ... If you will ascertain his feelings, and write me, I shall be obliged. Our German friends might not be quite satisfied with his appointment, but I think we could appease them."
"The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."
At the end of his adventures, Huckleberry Finn, the boy hero of the quintessentially American novel, did a quintessentially American thing: He decided to "light out for the territory." It was natural. Aunt Sally's ways were suffocating, stifling for a boy like Huck.
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The Gettysburg Address was a long time "a-birthing," almost nine decades, or, as Lincoln said in one of the best-known phrases in American politics: "Four score and seven years ago"- 87 years being the time between the adoption of the Declaration of Independence and when Lincoln delivered his address at Gettysburg.
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