A collection of Gettysburg royalty, including Acting Park Superintendent Zachary Bolitho; Gettysburg College president Robert Iuliano; Gettysburg Foundation chair Wayne Motts; Lincoln scholar and Lincoln Forum chair Harold Holzer; writer and policy analyst Susan Eisenhower; and Wendy Allen, president of the Lincoln Fellowship, moved indoors to the Majestic Theater to celebrate the 160th anniversary of the most famous presidential speech ever.
Eisenhower, who is a writer, policy analyst, and granddaughter of the ex-president, gave the principal address. Reflecting on the importance of Gettysburg she noted that in the years after World War II, “men like Churchill and De Gaulle and Montgomery came and toured this place with their Supreme Commander and reflected on the loss. Gettysburg became central and still is a centerpiece of the battle for cultural identity.”
“What a debt we owe these young men who died here,” she said. “These young men gave us another chance to be better than we thought we could be. We must find common ground; our country‘s future depends on it,” she concluded.
After Eisenhower’s speech, two-time Grammy-winning opera singer J’Nai Bridges sang two songs in commemoration of the 1963 Dedication Day event that included an appearance by acclaimed singer Marian Anderson.
Then, what for many people is the high point of the annual ceremony, Lori Pietropaoli, regional director of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, administered the oath of allegiance to 16 new US citizens who came from eight countries: Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Liberia, Malaysia, and Mexico. When the oath was completed, the members of the audience stood and gave a rousing ovation to welcome their newest fellow citizens.
The ceremony concluded with actor Graham Sibley, who played Lincoln in the recent History Channel docuseries “Abraham Lincoln,” giving an intense reading of the Gettysburg Address.
Other participants in the performance included the Gettysburg High School Ceremonial Band and soloist Wayne Hill, who sang “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
The ceremony was moved indoors for only the second time because of fears of a government shutdown. Allen was highly complimentary of the Majestic Theater staff for getting things ready on very short notice.
Featured image Caption: Clockwise from Left: Eisenhower, Sibley, Bridges, and Pietropaoli.
Leon Reed, freelance reporter, is a former US Senate staff member, defense consultant, and history teacher. He is a seven year resident of Gettysburg, where he writes military history and explores the park and the Adams County countryside. He is the publisher at Little Falls Books, chaired the Adams County 2020 Census Complete Count Committee and is on the board of SCCAP and the local Habitat for Humanity chapter. He and his wife, Lois, have 3 children, 3 cats, and 5 grandchildren.