Governor Pat Quinn today announced an ambitious series of events to mark the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address and help people across Illinois appreciate the famed speech's impact on history. This announcement is part of Governor Quinn's agenda to increase international, state and local understanding and appreciation of the profound impact of President Abraham Lincoln on our shared history.
"The Gettysburg Address made clear what was at stake in the Civil War -- "a new birth of freedom,'" Governor Quinn said. "Every American should understand the power of that speech. Luckily, we here in Illinois have one of the few handwritten copies of the Gettysburg Address housed in the nation's top institution devoted to Abraham Lincoln's legacy."
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM) will present that copy of the address in a special evening display Nov. 18. An honor guard will watch over the address as visitors file past to see it in person before the fragile document returns to the library's vault for an extended period. Visitors will also be able to visit a special exhibit of Gettysburg artifacts and enjoy dramatic readings from the acclaimed book "Team of Rivals."
Then at midnight, when the speech's actual anniversary arrives, "Abraham Lincoln" (in the form of historic interpreter Fritz Klein) will emerge to deliver the Gettysburg Address.
"Few speeches in all of history can match the eloquence and influence of the Gettysburg Address," Illinois Historic Preservation Agency Director Amy Martin said. "The 150th anniversary is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Illinoisans to celebrate the speech and the continuing success of government "of the people, by the people, for the people.'"
The anniversary events continue through the rest of Nov. 19, with Klein delivering the address again at 1 p.m. -- approximately the same time Lincoln delivered the speech in 1863. Historian James Cornelius will also host two screenings of a short film about the address and then take questions from the audience.
Historians will gather on Nov. 20 for a roundtable event to discuss the speech's significance, followed by a dramatic presentation about other important speeches that have built on the legacy of the Gettysburg Address.
Events for schoolchildren include a series of games before the anniversary week and then, when the anniversary arrives, workshops explaining the impact of the Gettysburg Address on people from different walks of life. A live webcast about the address will also be available to schools nationwide.
The ALPLM's Papers of Abraham Lincoln project is producing a booklet exploring the issues Lincoln wrestled with between the Battle of Gettysburg and his speech. "On Lincoln's Mind" will reproduce documents to and from Lincoln, with commentary on their significance. The booklet will be given away throughout the week of Nov. 18 -- 24.
Several of the state's historic sites with Lincoln connections will host special events and activities leading up to the Gettysburg Address 150th anniversary.