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Spielberg Marks Gettysburg Address Anniversary


One of the world’s best-known directors helped mark the anniversary today of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.  The crowd of hundreds laughed in the morning cold as the event’s keynote speaker, director Steven Spielberg, called them fellow “Lincoln obsessives.” The Oscar-winner says over the course of creating his latest film, “Lincoln,” he has come to think of the nation’s 16th president as an old friend.

“I’m luckier in one sense than nearly all of you because I have Daniel Day Lewis’s phone number in my speed dial and if I start to really miss him (Lincoln) terribly, I can just call him up and ask him to tell me a story,” said Spielberg. 

Daniel Day Lewis plays Abraham Lincoln in the Spielberg film.

It’s been 149 years since President Abraham Lincoln delivered his most famous speech dedicating a national cemetery to honor those who died during the three-day Civil War Battle of Gettysburg.  It’s been just a few days since Spielberg’s film was released.

On that day in 1863, Lincoln spoke for two minutes. Today, Spielberg spoke for about 12 minutes. 

“The reason for this concentration of heartbreak and heroism in a geographic location is simple.  And Lincoln told us what it was that day when he found his best and his truest voice.  It’s the courage, the selflessness, the strength, endurance, heroism and the sacrifice of the patriots who were buried here,” said Spielberg.

Re-enactor James Getty, who portrayed Lincoln, recited the speech shortly after Spielberg finished. 

Harold Holzer, an author of many histories about Lincoln, praised the Spielberg film for its inspiring portrayal of the man.  “The kind of leader who never heard of government gridlock, never took no for an answer when yes meant extending the hand of freedom and opportunity,” said Holzer.

Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of the Lincoln biography on which Spielberg based his film, says it was fitting that one of the country’s best storytellers was on hand to celebrate the speech that has come to define the nation’s 16th president, who was a master storyteller himself.

“No president understood better the power of stories than Abraham Lincoln.  Indeed, in the Gettysburg Address we commemorate today, Lincoln translated the story of our country into words of enduring clarity and beauty -- a country founded on the majestic idea that ordinary people could govern themselves,” said Goodwin.

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