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A truly great president

Photo courtesy of Michigan Tech University archives Gerrit Lamain plays the Wurlitzer Organ for the last time at the Student Development Complex (SDC).

I recently watched our president do a TV interview in Washington’s Lincoln Center. It brought back many wonderful memories for me. I had the opportunity to bring my high school Creston Choir from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Washington. The 130-voice choir performed in the White House Rose Garden, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the Lincoln Memorial – where we recorded the National Anthem.

I composed the original music for a Christmas carol entitled “Christmas Hope.” While doing some background material research, I came across words written by the late Phillips Brooks (1835–1893). He was not only the lyricist of “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” but an Episcopal Priest, an author and long- time Rector of Boston’s famous Trinity Church. While doing my research, I came across a sermon preached by the Right Reverend Brooks on Sunday morning, April 23, 1865. It was on the very day that the funeral train brought the body of the assassinated President Lincoln to Philadelphia, to lay in state in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall.

The following are portions of Brooks’ Lincoln sermon:

“Here is a description of a great and good ruler–of the source from which God took him, of the purpose of his taking, and of the character which belonged to the rulership which he exercised.”

“While I speak to you today, the body of the President who riled this people is lying honored and loved, in our City. It is impossible with that sacred presence in our midst for me to stand and speak of ordinary topics which occupy the pulpit. I must speak of him today; and therefore undertake to do what I had intended to do at some future time, to invite you to study with me the character of Abraham Lincoln, the impulses of his life, and the causes of his death. It is the great boon of such character as Mr. Lincoln’s, that they reunite what God has joined together and man has put asunder. In him was vindicated the greatness of real goodness and the goodness of real greatness.”

He concluded his sermon with the following:

The Shepherd of the People, that old name that the best rulers ever craved. What ruler ever won it like this dead President of ours? He fed us faithfully and truly. He fed us with counsel when we were in doubt, with inspiration when we sometimes faltered, with caution when we would be rash, with calm, clear trustfulness through many an hour when our hearts were dark. He fed the hungry souls all over the country with sympathy and consolation. He spread before the whole land feasts of great duty and devotion and patriotism on which the land grew strong. He fed us the sacredness of government, the wickedness of treason. He made our souls glad and vigorous with the love of Liberty that was in his. He showed us how to love truth and yet be charitable-how to hate wrong and all oppression, and yet not treasure one personal injury or insult. He fed all his people from the highest to the lowest, from the most privileged down to the most enslaved. Best of all, he fed us with a reverent and genuine religion. He spread before us the love and fear of God just in that shape in which we need them most, and out of his faithful service of a Higher Master who of us has not taken and eaten and grown strong. “He fed them with a faithful and true heart”. Yes, till the last. For at the last, behold him standing with his hand reached out to feed the South with Mercy and the North with Charity, and the whole land with Peace, when the Lord who had sent him called him and his work was done.”

“He stood once on the battlefield of our own State, and said of the brave men who had saved it, the words as noble as any country man of ours ever spoke. Let us stand in the country he has saved, and which is to be his grave and monument, and say of Abraham Lincoln what he said of the soldiers who had died at Gettysburg. He stood there with the graves before him, and these are the words he said:”

“We cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men who struggled here have consecrated it far beyond our 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 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 you, that from these hallowed 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, and for the people shall not perish from the earth”.

May God make us worthy of the memory of Abraham Lincoln.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Gerrit Lamain is a former Copper Country resident who served as a music professor at Suomi College. He has published a book, “Gerrit’s Notes: A compilation of essays,” which can be found on Amazon. His email address is gerrit.lamain@gmail.com.

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