SPRINGFIELD – Governor Pat Quinn tonight joined the nation’s first reading of the Gettysburg Address on the 150th anniversary of the famous Abraham Lincoln speech. At a special display of an original copy of the document in Lincoln’s own handwriting, Governor Quinn and visitors at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield listened as a Lincoln re-enactor read the Gettysburg Address at midnight to kick off the commemoration of the November 19, 1863 oratory that is one of the world’s best-known and most-often-quoted speeches. Tonight’s commemoration is part of Governor Quinn’s commitment to promoting Illinois’ Lincoln heritage.
“Every American should know and appreciate this speech that summed up where our nation has been and how we should move forward with a ‘new birth of freedom,’” Governor Quinn said. “I am proud that Illinois has one of the few handwritten copies of the Gettysburg Address, and that we are able to use it for the country’s first commemorative event on its 150th anniversary.”
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM) presented its original copy of the address accompanied by an honor guard at the center of the museum, along with a special exhibit of Gettysburg artifacts and dramatic readings from the acclaimed book Team of Rivals.
“There’s something special about seeing the actual words that Lincoln wrote down 150 years ago. They connect us to this man who was using all his skills as a communicator, leader and politician to save the nation and eliminate slavery. We hope every Illinoisan and every American takes the time to reflect on this historic speech,” Illinois Historic Preservation Agency Director Amy Martin said. The agency administers the ALPLM.
The anniversary events continue through the rest of November 19 with Lincoln re-enactor Fritz 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 November 20 for a roundtable 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. Workshops explaining the impact of the Gettysburg Address on people from different walks of life will be offered and a live webcast about the address will be available to schools nationwide.
The ALPLM’s Papers of Abraham Lincoln project has produced a booklet exploring the issues Lincoln wrestled with between the Battle of Gettysburg and his speech. On Lincoln’s Mind reproduces documents to and from Lincoln, with commentary on their significance. The booklet will be given away throughout November 24.
The ALPLM’s copy of the Gettysburg Address is known as the Edward Everett copy. Everett was the main featured speaker at the November 19, 1863 Gettysburg Cemetery Dedication and spoke for two hours, as keynote speakers were expected to do at the time. Then President Lincoln delivered his two-minute, 272-word speech. The day after the Address, Everett wrote to the President: “Permit me…to express my great admiration of the thoughts expressed by you, with such eloquent simplicity and appropriateness, at the consecration of the cemetery. I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central ideas of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”
Lincoln’s reply the same day was characteristic: “Your kind note of today is received. In our respective parts yesterday, you could not have been excused to make a short address, nor I a long one. I am pleased to know that in your judgment, the little I did say was not entirely a failure.”
Everett requested a copy of Lincoln’s speech to be included in a book along with Everett’s remarks and auctioned in New York for the benefit of wounded soldiers. Upon his return to Washington, Lincoln wrote out his speech and sent the document known as the Everett copy to the Massachusetts governor. This is the Address now owned by the ALPLM. The original copy of Everett’s oration was purchased at the same time as the Address and is held in the ALPLM’s collections.
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is home to a collection of more than 52,000 items related to the 16th President, from a handwritten copy of the Gettysburg Address to family heirlooms to popular art. The collection is available to researchers, and select items are displayed in the museum's Treasures Gallery.
For more information about Gettysburg Address 150th anniversary events, visit GettysburgAddress150.com.