Although the quote goes back into the 1300s, we know best the phrase “of the people, by the people, for the people” from Lincoln’s Gettysburg address.
If we look back to the occasion of the Gettysburg address, you might remember that he was talking that day because they were dedicating the battlefield to the fallen soldiers of the civil war. He was admonishing those gathered to work hard so that the loss of those fallen would not be in vain.
Just like at Gettysburg, it often feels today that it is uncertain if our democracy will survive.
Just like at Gettysburg, the only way this will happen is if all of us work to ensure we have a democracy “of, by and for” the people.
Of the People-– This means that the people who make up the government come from the people. That people like you run for office or serve in appointed roles to make the government work.
By the People- This means quite simply, that the people vote. To vote for representation, to vote for leadership, to vote to settle issues. If the people are not informed and making decisions, democracy fails.
For the People – There is an implied “the benefit of”. As in “For the benefit of the people”. Too often today, people read “for” and think – “instead of me”. This is not “here- let me do that for you”. As the first two clauses try to make clear, the people must act- Sometimes within the government and sometimes outside of the government- to get things accomplished and keep democracy healthy. This was a warning not to let the interests of other entities come before the interests of the people. Instead, what has too often evolved out of this means that people have great ideas and then try to find the person/department in the government to do it “for them”, instead of acting themselves.
What steps are you taking this fall to ensure that our democracy thrives and government stays “of the people, by the people, and for the people”?