By: Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb

Lincoln Memorial Washington, D.C. photo by Jacqueline Bennett

Lincoln Memorial Washington, D.C. photo by Jacqueline Bennett

As the nation marked the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address delivered by President Abraham Lincoln on November 19,1863, a project by documentarian Ken Burns titled “LEARN THE ADDRESS” continues. For the project, Burns is encouraging all Americans to video themselves reading or reciting the Gettysburg Address then upload it. His PBS documentary -“The Address” – is slated to air in the spring of 2014.

Considered by historians to be perhaps the greatest speech in American History, it was delivered by President Lincoln for the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania just four and half months after the Union Army defeated the Confederacy in the Battle of Gettysburg. Noted for its healing tone, Lincoln is said to have written five drafts before delivering the 271 word version which lasted slightly more than two minutes. And, he is said to have added “under God” to the speech as he looked out over what had been the battle-fields, according to the LEARN THE SPEECH website. (Writer’s note: having visited Gettysbury, I recall a powerful and eerie sense of presence hovering over the fields of those who fought and died there.)

With this speech, historians say Lincoln focused the purpose of the Civil War on both the preservation of the Union and the principles of human equality as stated in the Declaration of Independence. As noted on the Learn the Speech website, the oration is considered by many to be the single, greatest declaration of human equality.

The inspiration for Burns documentary is Greenwood School, a small school in Putney,Vermont where the students “all boys age 11-17, face a range of learning differences that have made their personal, academic and social progress extremely challenging.Yet, each year they are all encouraged to practice, memorize and recite the Gettysbury Address.”

Thus far for Burns’ project all the living presidents have recited the address along with notables and celebrities such as singer/songwriter Taylor Swift, broadcast journalist Robin Roberts, comedian Jerry Seinfeld and computer giant Bill Gates.

The Gettysbury Address

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. Now we are engaged in a great civil war testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.

We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. 

But in a larger sense we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow – this ground. The brave men. living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our power to add or detract.

The world will little note, not long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work they who fought here have thus far nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Abraham Lincoln November 19, 1863 

Go to for more information about the project and details on how to participate.