Saturday, February 7, 2009

Let's break the record - Get your school to recite the Gettysburg Address

I was done blogging for this week. I really was.

But then my communications buddies down at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and the Illinois Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission got in touch with me. They're reallly excited about breaking this world record for the number of people simultaneously reading the Gettysburg Address at the same time on Lincoln's birthday, Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009.

They'd love to have us all spread the word far and wide. They did a really good job of putting a press release together. Okay, I know that's what they get paid for, but you try it - it's hard work crafting all those words just so, and even harder preparing for an event like the Bicentennial and Presidential visit. I think they've done a super-duper job, and if all of you have been reading about all the Lincoln events, hearing about them on the radio and seeing it on TV, they have accomplished their goal.

Since it's Saturday night, and I'm off to Springfield myself in the morning, I'm sharing their press release with you verbatim - and, for extra measure, adding the text of the Gettysburg Address in case you've forgotten it since you last memorized or recited it in school.

Ask your kids if they're going to be reciting it in school this week. If not, pick up the phone, make a call and get that school on board.

Illinois gears up for simultaneous reading of Gettysburg Address; Aiming for new Guinness World Record

Simultaneous reading at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 12 part of Abraham Lincoln’s 200th Birthday celebration with Abe fans across the nation

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Education is joining with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum to encourage students across the state to participate in a nation-wide simultaneous reading of the Gettysburg Address at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 12 and help set a new Guinness World Record. The reading is part of a series of state and national events marking Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday.

“This celebration of the life and legacy of our nation’s 16th President is a once in a lifetime opportunity,’’ said State Superintendent Christopher A. Koch. “We hope that everyone in school on Feb. 12 will recite President Lincoln’s highly regarded speech. Students can always open books and learn, but this is an opportunity to experience – and perhaps make – history.”

Lincoln’s Birthday is officially a school holiday, but schools can be in session that day. In fact, more than 93 percent of Illinois Schools have petitioned ISBE to hold classes on Feb. 12.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the record for most people reading aloud simultaneously is 223,363 participants. The February 12 reading will be broadcast live at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Museum and on its Web site. Teachers and school administrators can register for the reading at where they can also find the Gettysburg Address and other resources for the day, as well as forms that must be completed if that school wishes to become part of the world record attempt. Schools may participate without taking part in the record attempt if they wish.

In addition, public school students in grades 5 and 8 who are in class that day will receive a commemorative poster with the 271 words that President Lincoln so eloquently delivered in 1863 on the battlefield near Gettysburg.

“Lincoln’s brief speech reminds Americans that the ideals of equality and freedom are the foundations of healthy democratic government,’’ said Illinois State Historian Thomas Schwartz. “A moving testament to the honored dead, the address is also a challenge to contemplate what the ultimate cause for their sacrifice was. Lincoln urges Americans to expand their understanding of American equality through a `new birth of freedom,’ for the former enslaved peoples.’’

The February 12 Gettysburg Address reading, entitled the Four Score and Seven Project, is generously supported by JP Morgan Chase, MacArthur Foundation and The Chicago Community Trust, and administered by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation.

“We know that teaching and learning become more effective when students are engaged and participating in what they’re studying,’’ said Superintendent Koch. “We hope that the activities of the day will whet the appetites of future historians.’’

The Gettysburg Address
The text of the November 19, 1863 Gettysburg Address follows:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon 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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