Lincoln says that the fathers of the United States "conceived [it] in Liberty," "dedicated [it] to the proposition that all men are created equal."
His talk holds a specific nobility. It clearly doesn't fit with flags flying atop car dealerships. But it also differs from the usual recitations of the Pledge or renditions of the Anthem. The "proposition all men are created equal" is a reflective proposition. We can infer this from Lincoln's emphasis on equality. If people had dedicated themselves to it, then there would be no civil war. But this implies more than the absence of slavery. His proposition pushes toward several practical questions--are people being treated fairly? Do they have what they need to prosper?--and a more philosophical question: What do we mean by equality in the first place?
For years, we have heard in the U.S. that equality of opportunity is good enough. A privilege, even. We are constantly presented with feel-good stories such as a man given a car after walking miles to work for years. Or a teacher given money for adequate supplies for their students. It has rightly been said in these cases that we perversely celebrate dysfunction. I'd like to add that an emphasis on "equality of opportunity" creates powerful rhetoric but undercuts serious attempts at policy. We don't bother to ask whether equality of opportunity actually leads to equality in most cases. That's a testable, empirical proposition, and we avoid it entirely. --To be fair, the tutors I've had would remind me not to narc on myself.--
This brings us to the issue of a gentleman who worked for Burger King for 20 years, never calling in sick. He had to work every hour he could at the restaurant in order to support his four daughters. According to NPR, he received "a coffee cup, a movie ticket, some candy and [a] few other small items" for his service. When people learned about him, many sent money and said he "reminded them of their own father, brother, or friend."
I don't think we take equality seriously. Nor equality of opportunity, for that matter.
Some will earnestly ask if the Burger King worker should have done better. The trouble with such a question is that we can imagine him asking himself this a bunch of times every day. I've seen the attitudes of people who really don't want to work. Even they'll get jobs to keep their mom or partner from bugging them. Feeling like you have no options because you must get the next check is not equality of opportunity. It's paycheck-to-paycheck survival permitted by a country which refuses to see its best citizens.
The Internet raised 400k for the Burger King employee because they saw in him a father, brother, and friend. They saw him as more than an equal because they understood we're all in this together. Maybe that's the great irony of a lack of equality. Without any equality, high-sounding talk and glorious titles are frivolous. Only with equality is nobility possible.