On Nov. 19, 2012, the 149th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, a famed filmmaker known for his ability to bring history to life spoke to thousands at Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg during the annual Dedication Day ceremony.
Standing on the ground that Lincoln dedicated 149 years earlier, Steven Spielberg, director and producer of the new film Lincoln, spoke of the humility he felt as he stood upon such hallowed ground.
He felt humility, Spielberg said, not only because he stood where Lincoln had delivered the most “perfect prose poem” in history, but also because of the soldiers buried here who, in Lincoln’s own words, had given the “last full measure of devotion” to defend liberty, equality, and a government of the people.
Spielberg continued by acknowledging the great place in history that Gettysburg still holds. Nearly 150 years after the Battle of Gettysburg, “Gettysburg reverberates,” he said.
“Gettysburg was the crux of our national trial,” Spielberg said. “[There was] such a concentration of heartbreak and heroism here.”
Spielberg spoke of his own passion for history, noting its importance, “Without history there is no hope.” He continued by acknowledging that without memory, we as a people learn nothing.
He also noted how much he enjoyed bringing Lincoln back to life in his new film, which hit theaters on Nov. 16. After recognizing the Lincoln scholars in attendance, Spielberg quipped to the crowd, “We’re all Lincoln obsessives now.”
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 historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals, the book on which Spielberg based Lincoln, author and historian Harold Holzer, and representatives of the Lincoln Fellowship, Gettysburg National Military Park, and the Gettysburg Foundation. The commemoration was capped off with a naturalization ceremony for 16 new citizens.
Gettysburg College community members turned out in droves for the historic event.
James Frye ’16, a history major, attended because he “loves Lincoln and believes the Gettysburg Address was the most important speech ever given."
“I saw Lincoln on Friday,” said Moynihan. “Although I’m not a history major, I’m interested in everything about the Civil War, and I wanted to see Spielberg.”
“It is amazing to see how many people [gather] to commemorate the brave and loyal people who fought here,” said Huy.
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 and www.gettysburgcivilwar150.com.
About Gettysburg College and the American Civil War
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.
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.
Posted: Mon, 19 Nov 2012
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