In “A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico,” Amy S. Greenberg describes James K. Polk as an “instrument of Manifest Destiny.” Described as a mere “instrument,” Greenberg’s characterization of Polk is likely an understatement as the young president “extended the domain of the United States more than any other president.”[i] Due to his expansion of the United States as a result of the Mexican-American War and his Oregon settlement, Polk must be inextricable linked to Manifest Destiny. In fact, Polk’s 1845 Inaugural Address foreshadows the political philosophy that spread the United States across a continent.
From the American Civil War to the reach of executive power, the week of April 6 holds some significant events in American history.
On November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln delivered one of his most remembered speeches, the Gettysburg Address. Given in commemoration of the cemetery created to honor the soldiers who gave their lives on the Pennsylvania battlefield, Doris Kearns Goodwin notes that President Lincoln “translated the story of his country and the meaning of the war to words and ideas accessible to every American.” In fact, the main speaker of the day, Edward Everett, later wrote Lincoln to express that the president’s short speech accomplished what took him two hours to accomplish. While Goodwin’s passage aptly describes Lincoln’s speech, two key passages of the Gettysburg Address also embody the humility of the American president.
Earlier this week, the British Government released a draft of a speech Queen Elizabeth was to give at the commencement of World War Three. Echoing the words of Winston Churchill during the darkest days of World War Two, the proposed speech calls upon British resolve and urges “families [to] remain united and resolute” so that “our country’s will to survive cannot be broken.”
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