Remembering Gettysburg and talking peace

  • This undated illustration depicts President Abraham Lincoln making his Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery, Nov. 19, 1863. AP

Published: 7/4/2022 8:06:23 PM
Modified: 7/4/2022 8:03:45 PM

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania was the site of the most horrific of Civil War battles with more than 51,000 casualties. But since those fateful days (July 1-3, 1863) Gettysburg has been a monument for peace.

The United States should host a peace conference at Gettysburg to finally end the numerous conflicts and arms races that are unrelenting around the globe.

If the soldiers who fought in the Battle of Gettysburg were here today, they would tell all the combatants in ongoing wars to choose peace. In fact, years after the Battle of Gettysburg, the survivors from both the Northern Union Army and the Southern Confederate forces gathered at reunions in friendship.

President Abraham Lincoln would have been proud to see this as he tried to unite the country after the North’s victory in the battle. As Lincoln said “With malice toward none, with charity for all.” Those are important words for peace that is universal for all nations.

We have so many conflicts to resolve. There is Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, which has led to a war that could last for years. A peace settlement is the only way it will end.

In Yemen, there is a chance for peace with a truce between the Saudi Arabia led coalition and the Houthi rebels. We need to bring the two sides home to peace and end a seven year civil war. “Charity for all” is especially critical in Yemen as the country is on the brink of famine. Yemen needs food aid desperately to save lives and build peace.

There is also conflicts in South Sudan, D.R. Congo, Ethiopia and other countries that need peaceful resolutions. These nations are also in danger of famine. Gettysburg would be the perfect host for the leaders to sign peace treaties. Gettysburg is proof you can move past war toward peace. It’s not without precedent either.

President Jimmy Carter, when trying to negotiate peace between Israel and Egypt, took the leaders of each country to Gettysburg.

With President Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minister Begin of Israel, Carter said “I wanted to show these two men that we Americans know something about war, and we know about neighbors fighting against neighbors. The three of us walked through the valleys and hills where more than 40,000 young Americans fell in battle — Cemetery Hill, Seminary Ridge, Little Round Top, Devil’s Den.”

A peace treaty was signed not long after the Gettysburg visit.

President Dwight Eisenhower had a home at Gettysburg and worked on peace right near the battlefield. At Gettysburg, in 1963, Eisenhower penned a letter in support of the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty which his successor, John F. Kennedy, was trying to get ratified. Eisenhower’s letter helped the cause and the treaty was approved. Gettysburg could inspire peace conferences to reduce and even eliminate nuclear weapons in the future.

When President Teddy Roosevelt visited Gettysburg in 1904 he talked about how the soldiers “fought for four years in order that on this continent those who came after them, their children and their children’s children, might enjoy a lasting peace.” Roosevelt, the following year, actually helped negotiate an end to a war between Russia and Japan.

President Franklin Roosevelt led the dedication of the Eternal Light Peace Memorial at Gettysburg in 1938. Roosevelt said the monument stood for “the spirit of brotherhood and peace.”

Peace is what we want to share with the world. We have seen great suffering in the Civil War and also the wars with Great Britain before that. We are proof that you can move past the horror of war and onto peace.

William Lambers is the author of “The Road to Peace” and partnered with the UN World Food Program on the book “Ending World Hunger.” His writings have been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek, History News Network, Chicago Sun Times and many other news outlets.


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