Here and Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Gettysburg Address Still Resonates, 150 Years Later



“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that ‘all men are created equal.'”

On this date in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered these words in the Gettysburg Address, a two-minute-long speech that became one of the most famous in American history.

Lincoln spoke at the dedication of the National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the site of a bloody Civil War battle the summer before.

That speech still resonates with people 150 years later — but why? Boston University history professor Nina Silber joins Here & Now’s Robin Young to discuss the answer.

Interview Highlights

On the context of the dedication ceremony and address

“The Battle of Gettysburg had happened in July of 1863 — the deadliest battle ever to happen in North America — about 10,000 dead, 21,000 wounded, I think another 20,000 missing. So the casualties are enormous. And there was a movement to bury the dead, to construct, as you mentioned, this national cemetery. And I should say, strictly to honor the Union dead as a national cemetery. It wasn’t meant to honor the Confederate dead.”

On the perception the address was uniting both sides

“Starting in the 1880s, when people thought about the Gettysburg Address, they put it in the context of reconciliation. They saw it as a document for all Americans. In the 1880s, people were thinking, you know, this is a time now to put our differences behind us and reconsider the two sections. But I would say in the moment, in 1863, when the nation was completely divided, Lincoln was there to honor the Union dead, those who were supporting the principles and the values of the United States, which is why he makes reference in the very beginning of the Gettysburg Address back to the Declaration of Independence.”

On the references to slavery, without using the word

“Democratic newspapers at the time said, ‘Oh Lincoln, he’s being so partisan again. Oh, there’s Lincoln just kind of ranting on.’ And some made reference to the idea that, ‘Oh, here was Lincoln just making a speech about the negro.’ So even though, you’re right, there’s no mention of slavery in there, there’s no mention of African Americans, I think that was on people’s minds — that this, in some way, was a reflection on the Union now that there was emancipation.”


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

April 28 19 Comments

Men Read Mean Tweets At Women And The Video Goes Viral

Two Chicago-area sports journalists gathered the tweets directed at them and asked men to read them to their faces. The result went viral.

April 28 7 Comments

HBO's CEO On Virtual Reality And ‘Sesame Street’

In the second part of our interview with Richard Plepler, he discusses why the premium cable network picked up "Sesame Street."

April 28 Comment

Gloria Estefan Reflects On Her Life Story In ‘On Your Feet!’

Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson catches up with the Cuban-born American singer backstage after a performance.

April 27 27 Comments

Economist: NAFTA Benefits Economy Despite Job Losses

Gordon Hanson explains his research on the effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement and why he still supports it.