Steven Spielberg, director of the critically acclaimed film “Lincoln,” delivered the keynote address at an observance commemorating the 149th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg on Nov 19, 2012. The event featured Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals on which the movie is based. Lincoln actor and historian, James A. Getty recited the Gettysburg Address. The screenwriter of the movie, playwright Tony Kushner was in attendance. However Daniel Day Lewis, the actor who so masterfully portrayed President Lincoln, was not.
Jacqueline Maloy, an educational writer who resides in Gettysburg, gives an eyewitness account of the event.
The crowd was very serious throughout. I can tell you that Doris Kearns Goodwin (author of “Team of Rivals” which the movie is based on) spoke, then Harold Holzer introduced Steven Spielberg. Holzer is a historian who’s written many books about Lincoln.
Spielberg gave a really moving speech. He talked about how Lincoln lost his mother when he was a child, then his sister, then his first love. Lincoln struggled with depression throughout his life, but knew that before he died, he wanted to leave the world a better place. He hoped he could live on through his actions.
Spielberg also joked about all the Lincoln obsessives being here, and that now he was like them, except that he had Daniel Day Lewis on speed dial, so if he missed Lincoln, he could call him and ask him to tell him a story.
Jim Getty portrayed Abraham Lincoln giving the Gettysburg Address. Near the end of the ceremony, there was a naturalization ceremony, where about 15 people became U.S. citizens.
After the ceremony ended, the celebrity speakers stayed around to sign programs and talk to fans for a few minutes. I thought Doris Kearns Goodwin seemed especially sweet, since she got down on her hands and knees to sign programs for the people standing in front of the stage. Tony Kushner (screenwriter for Lincoln) didn’t speak at the ceremony, but he was there, too.
Spielberg stated in his speech that each time he visited Gettysburg he has been “…in the presence of Lincoln’s still eloquent ghost. To be honest I have been keeping company with that eloquent ghost on and off for the last 10 years spent preparing and constantly for the past 2 years, devoted around the clock to making “Lincoln.” And even if this is merely an illusion or testament to the enduring force of his legacy, like most people who spent a lot of time thinking about Abraham Lincoln he’s come to feel like one of my oldest and one of my dearest friends and I imagine I am talking to many people who feel the same way.”
That feeling was reminiscent of the experience writing “Three Miles from Providence: A Tale of Abraham Lincoln and the Soldiers’ Home.” The author immersed himself into the world and words of Lincoln, walked through Lincoln’s Cottage literally in the President’s footsteps and sparked a sense of friendship with an historical, eloquent, impressive figure.
For photos of the day view the Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” album on facebook.