On Nov. 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address at the dedication of Soldier’s National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pa. Lincoln was not the featured speaker on that day. Rather, he took the podium after a two-hour speech delivered from memory by Edward Everett, a famous orator of the time.
Lincoln’s speech, 272 words in length, was over in less than two minutes and didn’t receive much attention during his lifetime. Now, of course, it is considered one of Lincoln’s greatest speeches and perhaps one of the most famous in American history.
Today we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. In observance of this landmark anniversary, Ken Burns, America’s documentarian, is asking all Americans to video themselves reading or reciting this famous speech and then to share it online as part of his next film, “The Address,” to be aired on PBS in 2014. For details, visit learntheaddress.org and consider tuning in to “Lincoln@Gettysburg” which will air on PBS at 8 p.m. today.
Though 150 years old, this speech captures the very essence of why, over the years, so many Americans have laid down their lives for this country. I’m re-reading and talking about the Gettysburg Address with my friends and family and challenge each of you to read or re-read this important document and think about Lincoln’s words. They have as much meaning for us today as to those who heard him speak them 150 years ago.