Gettysburg Matters

As we approach the season of anniversaries — and there are many — I will be writing a frew entries focused on important ones — and their relevance to higher education. This is installment one.

The Gettysburg Address is a mere 272 words. even so, it was not easy to memorize as a child. But, many of us — at least of my generation — did so. I lived in Pennsylvania — trapped, I sometimes think, between Valley Forge and Gettysburg, both of which were within a few hours drive. Both featured repeatedly in my education — field trips, family trips, and reading. Yes, I came of age during the civil rights movement — but I remained oblivious until recently how much tension there was in those years with another marker of the time: the 100th anniversaries associated with the Civil War (a war I rediscovered when I spent my college years in North Carolina and heard it referred to as the War Between the States). Yes, the Centennial ignored much of the now-widely-recognized focus on slavery, race relations, and racial violence both underlying the Civil War, characterizing Jim Crow experience, and, frankly, pervading the North and the South alike in the Civil Rights Era. (Not to mention today, in November of 2013).

So, the Address is relevant for it is the topic of scholarly and teacherly reflection. It is relevant because it has a core place in American mythology (and history). And, as a primary text, rooted in Lincoln’s rhetorical connections to texts taught in many contexts — it is worth a read.

Upcoming events in Chicago regarding the Address include:

1. At the Union League, and sponsored by the Great Books Foundation: asn event on November 19 at 5:30, including talks and discussion with a variety of Chicagoans. For details, click here.

2. The Chicago Tribune honors the 2 minute speech through its coverage, for example, here and  here.

3. Illinois government is focused on the anniversary — see this site. Events began November 17.

4. Shimer College invites readers from around the country to participate in a social reading discussion of the Address. Below are the directions for joining the conversation:

Please first sign up for SocialBook here. SocialBook is entirely free, and in addition to the Gettysburg Address, you will find a huge number of other texts that you may read “socially”. Please note that SocialBook works only with Safari or Chrome browsers; unfortunately, it will not function properly with Internet Explorer, Firefox, or other browsers. If you do not already have a compatible browser, you can download Safari for Windows here or Google Chrome here. If you use a Mac, Safari should already be installed on your device, and Chrome can be downloaded here.
After you do all this, email with a note expressing your interest in joining the conversation, and you will be promptly added to the group.
We look forward to reading with you!


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