272 words: The Gettysburg Address 150 years later

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and historian James McPherson were the keynote speakers at a Dedication Day ceremony that drew many from the Gettysburg College community.

On Nov. 19, 2013, the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior and a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian spoke to thousands at Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg during the annual Dedication Day ceremony.

Standing on the ground that Lincoln dedicated 150 years earlier, historian James McPherson and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell spoke of Lincoln’s leadership and the sacrifices that were made – during the Civil War and over the last 150 years – in the name of equality for all Americans.

Gettysburg College President Janet Morgan Riggs ’77 was also in attendance. She spoke about the College’s connections to both the Battle and the Gettysburg Address, including the fact that it was an 1851 graduate of the College, David Wills, who procured the land for the cemetery, invited Lincoln to deliver “a few appropriate remarks” at the dedication, and hosted Lincoln in his home the night before the Address.

Attendees heard from Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Antonin Scalia, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, Pennsylvania Senators Robert P Casey, Jr. and Pat Toomey, Congressman Scott Perry, and representatives of the Lincoln Fellowship, Gettysburg National Military Park, and the Gettysburg Foundation. The commemoration was capped off with a naturalization ceremony for new citizens.

Gettysburg College community members turned out in droves for the historic event:

Natalie Sherif ’14, a history major, considers her generation’s investment in the past during the commemoration:
“Younger generations are overlooked as disinterested in history. We are supposed to be a forward-looking generation, but on days like today, there is no way someone can sit in the Gettysburg National Cemetery and not feel a powerful sense of history. It is an empowering feeling to think about the greater historical context of November 1863 and what Gettysburg and the nation had witnessed until this point. Especially when thinking about what Lincoln was saying and what the United States had in store for the future. There's no place like Gettysburg and there's no better time to feel this town's power than during the 150th of the Gettysburg Address.”

Bryan Caswell ’15, a history major, sees the anniversary of the Address as a tribute to those who fought and died for their country:
“It is, in the words of Lincoln, ‘altogether fitting’ that the finale of the great wave of sesquicentennial commemorations in Gettysburg should be the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The message of Lincoln’s speech here at Gettysburg cuts to the heart of what it means to remember this great conflict. While the fields of Gettysburg may be used to study history, to recreate the past, or even to cement one’s knowledge of American identity, their preservation was from the very first centered around remembering those men who gave their lives here. From the National Cemetery established mere months after the battle to the countless monuments erected in the years hence, men have come to Gettysburg to honor those who served and sacrificed on these fields, and on Dedication Day we too take part in this hallowed tradition.”

Jackie Beckwith ’16, a political science major, considered the Address as a presidential speech:
A century and a half ago, the Civil War was fought with guns and canons - today we see fights with words in the form of soundbites, allegiances to principles, and government shut downs. We as a people look to the president for inspirational speeches that spur us on, comfort us in times of distress and help move us forward. Lincoln did just that in this address, offering compassion and hope and calling us as a people to grow. When we gather to remember a presidential speech it offers a time for the nation to come together, take a step forward, and remember how to be strong. A refreshing change will come when our elected leaders remember the importance of working together.

Watch Gettysburg College Civil War Era Studies students recite the Address.

The 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address has earned media attention for Gettysburg College and our experts:

History and Africana studies Prof. Scott Hancock appeared in outlets including NBC’s “Meet the Press” and the Huffington Post. The Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era and director of Civil War Era Studies Allen Guelzo penned op-eds for outlets including the New York Times’ Disunion blog and the Philadelphia Inquirer and appeared on FOX News and several radio stations. Full list of Sesquicentennial-related media hits.

This event is part of Gettysburg College’s American Civil War Sesquicentennial commemoration. The College will sponsor events and programs throughout the anniversary that runs from 2011-15 with special focus on 2013, which marks the 150th anniversary of the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Battle of Gettysburg, and President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. For more information, visit www.gettysburg.edu/cw2013.

Gettysburg College (then known as Pennsylvania College) played a vital role in the Civil War, with more than 200 alumni serving the Union or Confederacy, and the College’s Pennsylvania Hall functioning as an observation post and hospital during the Battle of Gettysburg. On Nov. 19, 1863, College students and faculty processed to hear Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address at the Gettysburg National Cemetery. Earlier in the year, an 1851 graduate of the College, prominent attorney David Wills, had invited Lincoln to deliver “a few appropriate remarks” at the cemetery’s dedication. Lincoln stayed with the Wills family on the square the night before delivering his famous speech.

Watch the video on Youtube

Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

Contact: Nikki Rhoads, senior assistant director of communications, 717.337.6803

Posted: Tue, 19 Nov 2013

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