Thank You for Your Role in “The Great Task”

The socially distanced Petersburg Civil War Roundtable meeting at Pamplin Park

If you voted in this year’s election, I’d like to say “Thank you.” It doesn’t matter who you voted for—what matters is that you voted. It looks like participation is going to end up north of 65%, a modern record (and, by sheer volume, the largest raw number of voters ever, I think).

The Founders understood that in order for our democratic republic to work, it would require the robust participation of a well-informed electorate. If we failed in our civic responsibility to vote, we would fail in our ability to self-govern—a concept very much in question at the time.

Why am I mentioning this on a Civil War blog?

This evening, I had the chance to speak to the Petersburg (VA) Civil War Roundtable at Pamplin Park. Before I began my talk, I called to mind the hundreds of thousands of men who died in the war that we all spend so much time studying. We fought a civil war over the survival of this republic. Those men gave their last full measure of devotion so “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

I called to mind, too, the women and families at home who made sacrifices because their husbands, fathers, and sons were off serving.

I think of the many men and women since then who have struggled and fought and sometimes died to maintain our democracy, to expand the franchise, to ensure equal opportunity to participate in self-determination.

By those measures, it’s little to ask of us to show up at the polls to do our civic duty and cast our ballots. People have died to preserve our government and pass it on to us. We owe them our freedoms.

America isn’t perfect; rather, it’s a process toward perfection, toward becoming, in the words of the Founders, “more perfect” than we were yesterday. The process requires an ongoing dialogue—which does sometimes get testy—and it requires our constant participation and vigilance. Democracy is hard.

Thank you for being willing to put in the work by being part of the process. That is “the great task” remaining before us.


(Fair warning: I’ll delete any comments that sink into partisanship or acrimony.)

You can read Lincoln’s full Gettysburg Address here.


6 Responses to Thank You for Your Role in “The Great Task”

  1. Your ”fair warning” puts you in the same category as FB, Twitter and Instagram. You talk about the sacrifices made to preserve this country and then threaten to remove partisan comment. That pure BS.

    1. You’re wrong, Mike. There’s nothing wrong with expecting–and demanding–civility in discourse. Too often, political discussion degenerates from disagreement into name-calling and baseless accusations, and that inhibits rather than promotes constructive dialogue. I don’t have to tolerate such nonsense here on a personal level, and ECW has a long-standing policy that says the community of readers doesn’t have to put up with it, either. (

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