We are a musical family. Of course we will drive two hours to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/Saint Paul for our granddaughter’s first orchestra concert (20 minutes in a middle school gym, but hey! she was great!) We drive regularly to one city or the other for concerts of the Minnesota Orchestra or Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. This week’s concert was fabulous: Max Bruch’s Concerto No. 1 in G minor for Violin played by the young Korean-American violinist Esther Yoo, and Antonin Dvorak’s gorgeous Symphony from the New World. Both were exquisitely done, but the most powerful piece on the program was Aaron Copeland’s Lincoln Portrait with Alan C. Page as narrator.
Copeland received the commission to write the Lincoln Portrait 11 days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It premiered the following year. That spring of 1942 was a scary time in American history. America faced choices about what kind of nation we would be, much like the America of Lincoln’s time to which the piece alludes.
Much like we do this week.
Choices made in Lincoln’s day tore the nation apart. From 600,000 to 750,000 soldiers died, plus incredible devastation to civilian life. Yet choices made in the years that followed attempted to undo the freedom so dearly bought for our nation’s oppressed. Some of the choices made in Copeland’s day, like the internment of up to 120,000 men, women and children (most of them American citizens) for nothing more than their ethnic heritage, defied the values of the Declaration of Independence, much less the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We face terrible choices today. What kind of America do we want to live in? What kind of legacy will we leave for our children? The choice is not simple. Sincere believers will choose differently, but we must ask ourselves, is our faith in God, or in a political party? What guides our choices—fear or faith? Do we value an illusive “safety” more than we value justice? What is the price of conscience?
"Fellow citizens,” Copeland quotes Lincoln as saying in his 1862 message to Congress, “we cannot escape history...No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation. We, even we here, hold the power and bear the responsibility."
Please fulfill your responsibility on Tuesday.