Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cemetery ceremony marks 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address

Civil War historian and author James B. McPherson and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell were among those on the program today at the Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg National Military Park. Here is the Civil War Picket's account of events, viewed as they happened via a video stream, followed by the words of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address:

11:34 a.m.: Conclusion of the ceremony, with mention of a noon ceremony at the graves of U.S. Colored Troops.

11:29 a.m.: Benediction, followed by the playing of Taps.

11:27 a.m.: Pledge of Allegiance followed by a musical selection, "God Bless America."

11:25 a.m.: President Barack Obama, in a recording, welcomes the new American citizens. He mentions their solemn oath to their country and mentions "great responsibilities." No dream is impossible, Obama says. "You can help the write the next great chapter in our American story."

11:20 a.m.: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia prepares to administer the oath to new U.S. citizens. He reminds people that freedom is not free. About 15 take the oath, raising their right hands. "Welcome, my fellow Americans," Scalia says, as the crowd stands and applauds.

11:12 a.m.: Wayne Hill sings several stanzas of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

11:09 a.m.: James Getty, who portrays Abraham Lincoln, reads the words of the Gettysburg Address. He stands hatless, like Lincoln, to give the remarks. Getty wears a black suit, black bow tie and white gloves at the lectern.

11:07 a.m.: Morgan Brooks, law enforcement ranger at Gettysburg National Military Park, reads words from President Barack Obama, who is not attending the ceremony. Obama remembers those who gave the "full measure of devotion for the country they love." Obama talks about a self-made man who believed that it falls to each generation to preserve the freedom for which its predecessors "so valiantly fought."

11:04 a.m.: Sally Jewell, secretary of the Interior, says Lincoln was wrong to say Americans would not long remember his words. "We are reminded of the sacrifice of so many for freedom." She cites the bravery of Rosa Parks and others. Speaking of Lincoln, she says he personified honesty and decency.

11 a.m.: Director of the National Park Service, Jonathan Jarvis, says his staff is appreciative of Americans' love for their national parks.

10:56 a.m.: The U.S. Marine Band plays "The Old One Hundredth," a song familiar in 1863.

10:52 a.m.: McPherson says that Lincoln in two minutes brought the past, present and future together and weaved in additional images -- death, rebirth, among them. Americans should closely study and analyze the words of the Gettysburg Address, the historian says. "Men died that the nation might live." McPherson said the institution of slavery also died. McPherson asks the crowd whether Lincoln's vision will be around for another 150 years. He says Americans should commit themselves to fulfilling the task of Lincoln and the soldiers buried at the cemetery.
10:47 a.m.: Pulitzer Prize winner and historian James McPherson, author of "Battle Cry of Freedom," says people should reflect on Lincoln's life and speech at Gettysburg. "During the many dark days of that war ... it looked like the nation ... might indeed perish from the earth." Lincoln's legacy has inspired people of other lands, he says. McPherson talks about 4 million slaves who were to become forever free. Citing MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963, McPherson says King praised Lincoln. The historian tells the crowd that Lincoln had a reverence for the generation that brought forth a nation in 1776. The Civil War was a great test to see whether Lincoln's generation was worthy of that heritage.

10:41 a.m.: Gettysburg College President Janet Morgan Riggs says the "battle swept through our campus." A building was used as a Confederate field hospital. Freshmen at the college re-create a walk from the town to the cemetery to reflect on the address.

10:36 a.m.: Honoring of a Pennsylvania student who wrote an address that was in tribute to the Gettysburg Address. Lauren Pyfer took part in "In Lincoln's Footsteps." She tells the crowd that it is up to citizens to nurture and preserve the rights of freedom and humanity in all nations. "Intentions are good, but actions are lasting." She said the world needs to fulfill the vision of Abraham Lincoln.

10:32 a.m.: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett: "President Lincoln sought to heal a nation's wounds by defining what a nation should be."

10:30 a.m.: Sen. Bob Casey talks about recent wars, including the deaths of Pennsylvanians in Iraq and Afghanistan. "We do need to recommit ourselves to the unfinished business this country faces today." The cause then was the Civil War and the future of the country. Casey says the cause of veterans is crucial today. "Let us recommit ourselves to those who serve us."

10:28 a.m.: Sen. Pat Toomey says Abraham Lincoln used words that matched his deeds. (See Gettysburg Address text at the bottom of this post).

10:24 a.m.: Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania talks about "intense political rhetoric" in 2013. He mentions Lincoln's promise of a new birth of freedom. "Everything we have achieved since this time" is born out of the sacrifice of soldiers who fought at Gettysburg.

10:21 a.m.: Gettysburg National Military Park Supt. Bob Kirby describes the battle in July 1863 and the Union victory. He cites the 51,000 casualties, including 7,000 deaths. He also outlines the history of the cemetery at Gettysburg and Lincoln's attendance and speech. "Lincoln's 272 words brought meaning to the terrible sacrifices ..." The legacy of the address shows that the bid for freedom and equality did not end with the Civil War, says Kirby. "This truly is hallowed ground."

10:15 a.m.: The Rev. Michael Cooper-White, giving the invocation, mentions Lincoln's consecration of the hallowed ground at Gettysburg. "Give us to the courage to heal our divisions so that freedom once again might again flourish," says the pastor.

10:11 a.m.: The program is being live streamed to about 70,000 classrooms across the country. The 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry fife and drum corps, dressed in Federal uniforms, accompanies the presentation of the colors. The U.S. Marine Band plays the National Anthem.

10:06 a.m.: A moment of silence is held for those who, President Abraham Lincoln said, did not sacrifice in vain.

10:03 a.m.: The program has begun. Various dignitaries are placing patriotic wreaths in front of the stage at Soldiers' National Cemetery.

9:55 a.m.: We appear to be only moments away from the start. Re-enactors, politicians and children waving U.S. flags are bundled against the chill. Skies are gray.

9:40 a.m.: Band performing as crowd awaits beginning of program. It's a chilly morning at Gettysburg, with a current temperature of 40.

Gettysburg Address (delivered by President Lincoln on Nov. 19, 1863)

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 poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor 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 which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly 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.

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