The Gettysburg Address and the Land of Lincoln

“Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” 

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.

On November 19,  1863, Lincoln delivered the 272-word speech at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, and it has been remembered ever since.

I didn’t realize this anniversary was upcoming until my younger teen and I attended a field trip just this past Saturday with her American Heritage Girls troop to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield. On display–only until the end of November–in the museum was one of the five copies Lincoln wrote out in his own handwriting.  Also on display were part of a vast collection of 272-word essays collected this year from schoolchildren, world leaders and others–from governors and college presidents to notables like Pete Seeger (I liked his letter).

We noticed the actual anniversary would come up this Tuesday, and I thought it would be fun for the younger kids and I to suspend our normal school work for the day and explore the Gettysburg Address and other Illinois history.  I made a mental note of it, but completely forgot when the strong storms ravaged nearby communities here on Sunday.

As virtually everyone knows, local communities, primarily Washington, IL, had entire neighborhoods destroyed by the tornadoes on Sunday.  And like most people here in central Illinois, our family knows directly or indirectly many families that either lost all their possessions or had severe damage to their homes & property.

The aerial view of the destruction (it was on the front page of our local newspaper today, but I found it online from an AP gallery here) is just tremendous, and it’s a miracle there were not more casualties.  So we’ve spent the last few days helping or, mostly, trying to figure out how best to help, those in need around us.  We’ve spent some time helping people with child care, and the kids have been brainstorming ideas about having a bake sale to raise money for the Red Cross or other charity efforts.

Early this morning, though, I heard the Gettysburg Address being recited on the radio as I took my older teen to school, and remembered, and so we did spend time exploring it.  We visited the Lincoln Museum website, with lots of information about the anniversary, including activities for school children.

While I was checking out some of the links, and letting others in our local home education community know about today’s anniversary, the kids did the Gettysburg Address as copywork and began to memorize the first section.  I memorized it as a grade school student, and since I can’t recall it verbatim, I’m working along with the kids to memorize it.  So far, I’ve got the above first sentence of the Address down.

We tried to join in with a scheduled webcast from the Lincoln Museum, but it turned out the website information was incorrect. In the meantime, we watched some fun videos of people reciting the Gettysburg Address and other similar on the Lincoln Museum’s YouTube Channel.  And of course, I ordered lots of relevant books from the library. (Late in the day, an online friend shared that PBS aired a documentary called “Lincoln@Gettysburg,” had aired, and so I DVRd one of its showings for later viewing.)

Then we also discovered that “Abraham Lincoln” has a Twitter account, and we could ask questions to a historian there via Twitter.  We asked two questions and got two answers. For some reason my screenshot of those is not formatting here even when I add it, but I’m @ReadingCatholic on Twitter and you can see the questions and answers there.

lincoln tweetThat led me to post on Facebook, “Twitter can be fun. Don’t know whether it is cooler that Matt Maher followed me briefly on Twitter (last week) or that Abraham Lincoln just answered two questions we asked about the Gettysburg address.”

About Matt Maher? That is another very interesting story.  I will be posting a long Q&A I did with him after his concert here in central IL last week, and it will appear in The Catholic Post.  Look for that here later this week, or subscribe via e-mail to Reading Catholic (it’s the box on the upper right of this page), and you won’t miss any future posts.

Back to the Gettysburg Address.  For obvious reasons, commemorating Lincoln, a loyal son of Illinois, at the same time that we are witnessing the outpouring of support for those who lost so much, is very moving.

I have November 19 on my calendar to come up in future years, so hope to commemorate this anniversary well.

Did you do anything for the 150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address?