Dedication Day is the day set aside to commemorate and remember the Gettysburg Address. It’s so named because November 19 was the date the Gettysburg Soldiers’ National Cemetery was dedicated.
The day starts with a wreath-laying. This year, probably due to the crowd, it was at the speaker’s rostrum. Normally it’s at the Soldiers’ Memorial.
Next we had the dignitaries speak, and then James McPherson gave the keynote. He was followed by more dignitaries, and then it was time for the naturalization ceremony. Each year, on Dedication Day, new citizens take the oath of citizen to be naturalized citizens of the United States. It’s wonderful to be a witness to that event. This year, sixteen people from thirteen countries took the oath, administered by Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, a son of Italian immigrants. You can read a transcript of Justice Scalia’s remarks here. There were then some recorded remarks by the President, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and “God Bless America” played by the United States Marine Band. It was a moving ceremony, and you can see all the festivities here.
If you just want to see the keynote speeches by James McPherson and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell:
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight the recitation of the Gettysburg Address by Gettysburg’s own Jim Getty.
Next it was off to the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania luncheon with guest speaker Michael Crutcher, Sr. playing Frederick Douglass.
He had a good command of some Douglass’ speeches, but unfortunately he went way too long. He would have been far more effective with better editing and selection of material.
That evening was the Robert Fortenbaugh Lecture given by David Blight.
The lecture started off with an introduction by Pete Carmichael, and it was a real pleasure seeing Pete up on the stage.
He spoke on “Bruce Catton’s Civil War.” Catton had said, in 1959, “Tragedy is not quite in key in the American spirit.” Catton gave the first Fortenbaugh Lecture, and during that speech he used the word “tragedy” six times. Growing up talking with actual veterans of the Civil War in Michigan, Catton viewed the war as a tragedy. He abhorred Civil War reenactments, calling them “carnival.” He hated the selling of Civil War merchandise. The Civil War, to him, was unforgettably tragic.
He wrote with hopeful realism, but also with a real sense of tragedy. Catton’s connection with his readers began with his prose. He made reading history exciting as well as edifying.
Catton made public utterances in support of the lost cause, in the name of national unity, even though he supported the Civil Rights Movement. He was called the Last Survivor of Both Sides of the Civil War.
Blight is a wonderful lecturer and it’s a joy to listen to him. He ended his tribute to Catton’s writing by telling us that in the end, Catton had tragedy in the right key.
Additional information on Prof. Blight’s lecture is here.
I’ll post the video of the Fortenbaugh Lecture as soon as it’s available.
As promised, video here.