Gettysburg Address' 150th Anniversary: WATCH Students Struggle to Identify Abraham's Lincoln's Iconic SpeechBy Russell Westerholm, UniversityHerald Reporter
Tuesday marked the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, but some students on George Mason University's (GMU) campus had trouble recognizing it, or even identifying the iconic speech.
MRC TV's Dan Joseph questioned students at random on the GMU campus, about a half hour drive from Capitol Hill, Washington D.C. and an a half from where Lincoln delivered the speech in 1863.
Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address in the midst of the American Civil War just four months after the Union army defeated the Confederacy in the Battle of Gettysburg. Coming in at just over two minutes, it is one of, if not the first, most famous speech in American history.
The immensely famous opening line: "Fourscore and seven years ago" refers to the signing of the Declaration of Independence at the start of the American Revolution in 1776. Lincoln spoke about human equality as described in the Declaration and how the Union must win the war to attain true freedom and equality for all of America's people.
"I don't know," one student told Joseph, "I have just never heard of it."
Several students were given the opening line and guessed it came from the Emancipation Proclamation, which was wrong. Some knew the correct answer off the top of their heads and some could only guess parts, like who gave the speech.
A few students said they had never heard the quote before and had "no idea" where it came from. Even when Joseph mentioned a movie had been made recently about the speech and its speaker, it did little to help those who struggled with the answer.
A few students knew it was a U.S. President who gave the speech, but misidentified George Washington as the one who gave it.
"It is Lincoln's speech to everyone saying 'hey, chill out, we need to, you know, be cool and stuff,'" one student offered.
While some historians dispute the exact wording of the speech, it remains one of the most famous in American history and a turning point in the Civil War, with the North's Union army defeating the South's Confederates.
The Battle of Gettysburg was fought over a period of three days and was the bloodiest battle in the war in terms of the sheer number of casualties.
Courtesy of Cornell University's Library, here is a transcript of the Gettysburg Address.
"Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on 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 cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate-we cannot 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."