To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address (Nov. 19), documentarian Ken Burns initiated a broad-based effort to encourage everyone in America to video record themselves reciting Abraham Lincoln's famous speech, and Mercyhurst University is doing its part.
Mercyhurst students, at times joined by classmates, friends, even an on-duty U.S. Marine via Skype, have recorded their recitations at learntheaddress.org. Some efforts are plain and simple, others are orchestrated to powerful compositions like the theme from Star Wars. In any case, the videos of Mercyhurst students join those of Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton; actresses Alyssa Milano and Uma Thurman; as well as other high-profile personalities like Martha Stewart, Steven Spielberg and Cardinal Timothy Dolan - even the U.S. Soccer Team.
The videos are searchable by state. As of Monday, Nov. 18, nine of the 14 videos under “Pennsylvania” were those of Mercyhurst students, including those submitted by Marcela Delgado, Meghan Hardy and Kiersten Krolikowski, Dan Iulianello, Mike Lawson, Elizabeth Meier and Jenna Rizzonelli, Amanda Moore, Christina Tanchick, Milos Veres and Michal Blazejczyk.
The impetus for the initiative came as Ken Burns prepared THE ADDRESS, a 90-minute feature length documentary that will air on PBS in the spring of 2014. The film tells the story of a tiny school in Putney, Vermont, the Greenwood School, where each year the students are encouraged to practice, memorize, and recite the Gettysburg Address.
The movement at Mercyhurst, meanwhile, was driven by history professor John Olszowka, Ph.D., who encouraged his students to participate.
“What's been interesting is not just seeing the creative side of the students come forward, rather that for many it’s really the first time they've read through the entire speech,” Olszowka said. “For most, if they have any sense of the address, it is limited to the opening phrase of "Four score and seven years ago…." It's really a shame. They're also pretty surprised when I tell them that when I was a student, we had to memorize and recite the address for a high school English class, which is what I believe Burns is trying to get back to, at least to help people understand the importance and meaning of Lincoln's speech.”
Those wishing to join the project can share their reading of the Gettysburg Address at learntheaddress.org.
In a similar observance of Lincoln’s historic speech, this one a PBS American Experience project, several Mercyhurst students were featured reciting the Gettysburg Address in an online video. The students include Amanda Moore, Taylor Rollins, Haley Clark and Derek Blanchard. View the video here.