Abraham Lincoln said in 1865 during his Second Inaugural address as he looked toward the end of the war between the states:
To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.
This statement would become one of the most morally significant declarations given in the history of America, and after the war, also included veterans of the Confederacy along with their widows and orphans. Lincoln may have been at war with the South, but he still respected their cause – lost as it may have been (it wasn’t slavery). This statement also eventually lead to the formation of the Veteran’s Administration (VA), and would become its’ motto.
This pithy statement by President Lincoln, however, has now come under attack by the head of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). This is the largest organization serving post-9/11 veterans. According to the IAVA, such a motto is “outdated” and “sexist,” being too gender specific. Therefore, it must accordingly be revised to include women.
Now, for many years there have been women who have bravely worn the uniform and borne the battle. No one is questioning that, and that’s not the issue. The issue is, must we go back and revise history so that President Lincoln in 1865 – who gave the impetus leading to the modern VA – never made such “masculine statements”? Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, explains this well, saying:
Making a moral acknowledgment of the present does not mean – it can’t mean – denying the past, but what we see here is an agenda that has no respect for the past whatsoever, even the past that produced the present.
Lincoln’s declaration in 1865 set the moral tone of the nation as it came out of its’ bloodiest war, brother fighting brother. As such, the quote is incredibly important, and we must not revise the 1800s to fit the worldview of the 2000s, especially the parts that formed the basis for the world in which we now live. So, no, despite modern women now bravely serving, the VA motto is neither outdated nor sexist. It is simply a part of our nation’s history, displaying our high moral standard to anyone we call upon to fight for us. To revise such a history is to ultimately forget that history is made every day, remembering both the past’s glories and pitfalls while looking forward to make an even better future.