The Times West Virginian

Headline News

November 20, 2013

150 years later, Lincoln’s speech long remembered

Thousands gather to mark anniversary of Gettysburg Address

GETTYSBURG, Pa. — In solemnity, thousands gathered at a central Pennsylvania battlefield park Tuesday to honor a speech given 150 years ago that President Abraham Lincoln predicted would not be long remembered.

The inspirational and famously short Gettysburg Address was praised for reinvigorating national ideals of freedom, liberty and justice amid a Civil War that had torn the country into pieces.

“President Lincoln sought to heal a nation’s wounds by defining what a nation should be,” said Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, calling Lincoln’s words superb, his faith deep and his genius profound. “Lincoln wrote his words on paper, but he also inscribed them in our hearts.”

Echoing Lincoln, keynote speaker and Civil War historian James McPherson said the president took the dais in November 1863 at a time when it looked like the nation “might indeed perish from the earth.”

“The Battle of Gettysburg became the hinge of fate on which turned the destiny of that nation and its new birth of freedom,” McPherson said.

In the July 1863 battle, considered the turning point of the war, Union forces fought back a Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania. Lincoln’s speech was delivered more than four months later, at the dedication of a national cemetery to bury the battle’s casualties.

In the short oration, he spoke of how democracy itself rested upon “the proposition that all men are created equal,” a profound and politically risky statement for the time. Slavery and the doctrine of states’ rights would not hold in the “more perfect union” of Lincoln’s vision.

“In 272 words he put together what everyone was thinking, what everyone should know,” said park historian John Heiser. Because of varying transcriptions, scholars generally put the text at 268 to 272 words.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia administered the oath of allegiance to a group of 16 immigrants, telling them the national identity is unique, illustrated by the existence of the word “un-American” and by the people’s “fidelity to certain political principles.”

Greta Myer, 44, decided to make the six-hour trip from Akron, Ohio, with her husband and son after spending a week in Gettysburg earlier in the year.

“It’s something we’ve never done before,” Myer said. “It was a historical event that we wanted to be a part of.”

Among many re-enactors on the grounds were at least two Abraham Lincolns, including one who recited the address.

“Lincoln would have been surprised by the reverence accorded to him by future generations,” McPherson said, noting Lincoln himself held in high regard the country’s Founders.

“Would they preserve that heritage, or would they allow it to perish from the earth?” McPherson said.

He said the Gettysburg Address, despite its short length, managed to weave together themes of past, present and future; continent, nation and battlefield; and birth, death and rebirth.

“Men died that the nation might live,” McPherson said. “Yet the old nation also died,” and with it, the system of bondage that enslaved some 4 million Americans.

Part of the event was a speech delivered by suburban Philadelphia high school junior Lauren Pyfer, who won a contest to write a contemporary version of the Gettysburg Address, but at the same short length.

She urged the crowd to do their part to “nurture and preserve the rights of humanity, equality and freedom, across all nations.”

“It is impossible for one country to close its doors to other countries and still thrive,” Pyfer said.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who also adopted Lincolnian brevity, said the Gettysburg battle stands at the vortex of American history, and the Gettysburg Address at the vortex of national consciousness.

Lincoln, she said, called the country to its unfinished business, and he also came to symbolize the country’s “greatest virtues of humility, of honesty and decency.”

1
Text Only
Headline News
  • Supreme Court: Michigan affirmative action ban OK

    A state’s voters are free to outlaw the use of race as a factor in college admissions, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a blow to affirmative action that also laid bare tensions among the justices about a continuing need for programs that address racial inequality in America.

    April 23, 2014

  • Court critical of law punishing campaign lies

    The Supreme Court appears to be highly skeptical of laws that try to police false statements during political campaigns, raising doubts about the viability of such laws in more than 15 states.

    April 23, 2014

  • U.S.: Russia has ‘days, not weeks’ to follow by an international accord for Ukraine

    Russia has “days, not weeks” to abide by an international accord aimed at stemming the crisis in Ukraine, the top U.S. diplomat in Kiev warned Monday as Vice President Joe Biden launched a high-profile show of support for the pro-Western Ukrainian government. Russia in turn accused authorities in Kiev of flagrantly violating the pact and declared their actions would not stand.

    April 22, 2014

  • U.S. weighing military exercises

    The United States is considering deploying about 150 soldiers for military exercises to begin in Poland and Estonia in the next few weeks, a Western official said Saturday. The exercises would follow Russia’s buildup of forces near its border with Ukraine and its annexation last month of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

    April 21, 2014

  • Ukraine, Russia trade blame for shootout

    Within hours of an Easter morning shootout at a checkpoint manned by pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement blaming militant Ukrainian nationalists and Russian state television stations aired pictures of supposed proof of their involvement in the attack that left at least three people dead.

    April 20, 2014

  • Governor: Closing Boston amid bomber hunt ‘tough’

    Several days after the Boston Marathon bombing, Gov. Deval Patrick received a call in the pre-dawn hours from a top aide telling him that police officers outside the city had just engaged in a ferocious gun battle with the two men suspected of setting the bombs and that one was dead and the other had fled.

    April 20, 2014

  • Everest avalanche reminder of risks Sherpas face

    The rescuers moved quickly, just minutes after the first block of ice tore loose from Mount Everest and started an avalanche that roared down the mountain, ripping through teams of guides hauling gear.
    But they couldn’t get there quickly enough.

    April 20, 2014

  • Colorado deaths stoke worries about pot edibles

    A college student eats more than the recommended dose of a marijuana-laced cookie and jumps to his death from a hotel balcony. A husband with no history of violence is accused of shooting his wife in the head, possibly after eating pot-infused candy.

    April 19, 2014

  • Everest avalanche kills at least 12

    An avalanche swept down a climbing route on Mount Everest early Friday, killing at least 12 Nepalese guides and leaving four missing in the deadliest disaster on the world’s highest peak. Several more were injured.

    April 19, 2014

  • Diplomacy doesn’t move insurgents in Ukraine

    Pro-Russian insurgents defiantly refused Friday to surrender their weapons or give up government buildings in eastern Ukraine, despite a diplomatic accord reached in Geneva and overtures from the government in Kiev.

    April 19, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads