This Week’s Other Presidential Anniversary

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Category: Legal History, Public
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There’s a lot of hullabaloo over the 50th Anniversary of the Kennedy assassination and who or who is not visiting the Kennedy grave at Arlington tomorrow. The noise of politics often drowns out the things to which we should be paying attention, and the politics of grave visiting is certainly unimportant compared with the reality of what happened fifty years ago in Dallas. With all the noise from this and other things, the anniversary of another event is getting less fanfare, perhaps because it did not occur within recent memory.

One hundred-fifty years ago today, on November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the greatest speeches of all time – the Gettysburg Address. The speech is vintage Lincoln – brief, yet powerful. Of all the things that have been said about it, I like best the remarks of the man who delivered what was supposed to be the keynote speech of the day, Edward Everett, who wrote Lincoln the next day to say “I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”

Perhaps the best way to observe the anniversary is to take two minutes to re-read the address. The Library of Congress has an excellent online exhibit where one can view actual drafts of Gettysburg Address in Lincoln’s own hand, the Everett letter, and photographs of the event. Unlike the Kennedy anniversary, there is no video or footage of Walter Cronkite covering the event. But, on the plus side, there are no pundits speculating about what the observation of this anniversary means for the 2016 presidential race – I hope.

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4 Responses to “This Week’s Other Presidential Anniversary”

  1. I think appellate court judges should remember Edward Everett’s comments when they draft opinions.

  2. Lincoln’s Gettysburg speech is one my favorites for the reason you describe: short and powerful. In addition to the Library of Congress’ online exhibit, I’d also recommend Garry Wills’ Pulitzer Prize-winning book Lincoln at Gettysburg. http://www.amazon.com/Lincoln-Gettysburg-America-Schuster-Library/dp/0743299639

  3. Melissa Greipp Says:

    I’d like to put in a plug for a visit to the Library of Congress. The tour is fantastic–you’ll learn the story of the birth of the Library of Congress, which is interesting and inspiring, and you’ll see the beautiful building. The Library of Congress also has a wonderful exhibition series. The Library of Congress even now has an app for the Constitution, which I found when looking at Greg’s link in his blog.

  4. Greg Helding Says:

    I concur with Professor Greipp’s plug for a visit to the Library of Congress. It was one of our favorite stops in DC. The building is truly awe inspiring. The tour takes guests past the main reading room, but doesn’t take them inside. In a particularly geeky move, I went to one of the less awe inspiring buildings across the street to get a library card, which allowed me to come back and use the main reading room for a while. It is the one room that I have been in that feels more “scholarly” than the reading room at Eckstein Hall.

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