Speeches

Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer
Speech to the Ohio Historical Society
June 19, 2002

The signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, by President Abraham Lincoln represented a long and courageous step in America's journey to the reality of equality for all of its citizens.

As we read the words of the Proclamation and reflect upon the context in which it was issued, may we be inspired by the spirit of the act. America's uniqueness is not described by its geographical boundaries.

America is an ideal; a state of mind-shaped in the mold of our belief in life, liberty and justice. Our country was not shaped by ancient traditions and monolithic beliefs.

It was sculpted by a mindset that would inspire people to set off from distant lands in search of opportunity and justice.

The exhibit of the Emancipation Proclamation provides an opportunity for us to remember that the Proclamation itself is words on paper.

Even the profound act of freeing those held in bondage has little meaning if citizens without the power to declare them to be free do not make them truly free. There is no more propitious time for all of our citizens to rededicate themselves to that goal.

We are now engaged in a war-a war without great battlefields to dedicate as a final resting place for those who give their lives. It is a war fought against the landscape of our civic beliefs.

As they have since the birth of our nation, men and women are fighting not for words on paper, but for sentiments of the heart. They give the last full measure of devotion not for posterity, nor valor, nor praise. They fight for love of family, love of liberty and love of life. These brave men and women, living and dead, spill life's blood that brings meaning to the parchments so fundamental to our democratic principles.

Let us use this occasion to forever dedicate ourselves to these self-evident truths, for history has proven that a nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.