During the Summer of 2015, I collaborated with a Jackson, Mississippi historian and author by the name of Dr. Christopher Lahr on a planned musical play set in the Civil War titled "The Lions of Gettysburg." Sadly, Dr. Lahr fell ill during the course of this effort and we were not able to complete the play. Nevertheless, we did complete ten fine songs and portions of the book, from which this speech is drawn.
It is the Eve of Battle...the most momentous battle in the history of our Republic. To fortify the courage of his men, to inspire them, and to clarify their cause, the Captain stands before them to deliver this speech.
THE CAPTAIN’S SPEECH
Tomorrow we will face the Confederate Army in all its might and power. Tomorrow many of us will die. It was not my choice to lead you into this battle. It was not my choice to serve in this war. But serve I have and serve I will, with eyes wide open. The injustices I have seen, the inhumanity we fight, will soon come to an end.
Yes, men, I will lead you into battle and I will do my duty. I stand before you now to share a magnificent vision with you on the eve of battle, to reassure you that there is indeed a grand and glorious reason to fight….and to die.
I see a bright future.
I see in our many bright tomorrows a united nation that shall not be feared for its strong armies and deadly weapons but loved because it stands for the rights of all men.
No longer will one American take from another the fruits of his labor because of the color of his skin or the circumstances of his birth. In the America I foresee every able-bodied man and woman will prosper solely by the strength of their efforts and the keenness of their minds. Learning and labor will be rewarded. Lethargy and lassitude will tremble. Education and effort, not birthright and guile, will be the pathway to riches.
No longer will some men steal the indentured labor of others. Effort, learning, knowledge, skill, and labor will be the foundation upon which fortunes will be built. Not skin color. Not birthright. Not social class. Not unearned status.
Together we will build a new nation where all men are free, where no man will possess the power to dominate another just because his father has money in the bank…or owns the bank.
The rule of law will be applied fairly to all men and women, not just the poor, the oppressed and the penniless. The wealthy shall fear the magistrate's writ as much as any pauper.
Fortune and status will no longer purchase freedom for the guilty. Theft at the barrel of a gun or at the bank teller's window will be prosecuted as surely murder is prosecuted.
With eyes wide open I see one nation, a united America, North and South, East and West, respected and admired, and even loved around the world for its shining example to others. An America to be loved because its power will rise from the hopes, the strengths, and the labor of her free peoples of every color and creed.
No longer will one man be the master of another based upon his birth. No longer will the rich dominate the poor with the lash. No longer will any man or any woman serve any other man as a slave. No longer will our government make decisions and legalize policies based upon inherent benefits to a wealthy and a powerful few. No longer will our leaders lead us into needless wars without the confirmed consent of the majority.
No rich man will ever have the power to curry favor from the elect based solely upon the size of his purse. The machinery of war will grind to a halt without the consent of the people. Our nation will grow in power by the strength of its unions, not that differences that divide us.
Tomorrow we march as a house divided, brother against brother, state against state, but I see a day when we will march as one for the freedom and success of all. Our resources, our knowledge, our skills, our science, yea, even our merchants will strive to build not weapons of darkness, but sources of light.
We will be known not as death merchants but as bearers of light and hope and reason. No longer will we journey to steal, to dominate, to preach and to destroy but rather, we will journey to teach and to share. Our worldly neighbors will not fear our tread at their doorstep nor our knock on their door. They will find their hovels surrounded not by men armed with steel, but by doctors and teachers and nurses armed to heal.
This I see, this I believe. As I stand before you now, know that I stand on a mountaintop and what I see is that land of the free and that home of the brave so long ago envisioned by a poet named Key as a tattered flag flew in the light of dawn.
Yes men, tomorrow we fight, tomorrow we die, tomorrow we make history. But know this: Whether the battle is won or the battle is lost, your bravery will be remembered and honored by history. For we fight to preserve an honorable ideal, we fight to destroy the power of evil men. We fight for freedom, we fight for honor, we fight for the dignity of all men and all women all around the world. You may not see that now through the fear you feel in your bones…. but I do.
A new day is upon us. Our descendants will honor or disdain us for what we as a nation do from now on, for the choices we make, the principles we sustain. Shall we surrender to shame or shall we fight for honor? Shall we be mere men, or shall we be Lions? Shall we whimper, or shall we roar?
Let us charge into battle not as mere men, but as mighty lions. We are not farmers, we are not teachers, we are not tailors, we are not merely men.
WE ARE THE LIONS OF GETTYSBURG AND THE WORLD WILL HEAR US ROAR!