College celebrates history and sacrifice on Dedication Day

Garrison Keillor was the keynote speaker at Dedication Day. Photo courtesy of Gettysburg College Flikr.

Garrison Keillor was the keynote speaker at Dedication Day. Photo courtesy of Gettysburg College Flickr.

By Julia Sippel, Staff Writer

One hundred and fifty-two years after Lincoln gave his famed Gettysburg Address, our little town continues to celebrate his immortal words.

Celebrated officially on Nov. 19, Remembrance Day honors Lincoln’s visit to Gettysburg as well as the men who gave their lives to lie in the cemetery he dedicated that day. Each year thousands of tourists flock to town, filling the streets as if summertime had returned. With an array of celebrations, it is truly impossible to forget “what they did here.”

Though the initial wreath-laying ceremony was foregone due to inclement weather, the Dedication Day program, reminiscent of the same program all those years ago, occurred in the College Union Building Ballroom.

Highlighted by a speech by storyteller and humorist Garrison Keillor, the celebration was well received. “It was an honor to witness Mr. Keillor’s speech,” said the Gettysburgian’s Annika Jensen, a sophomore. “I grew up listening to his radio shows, and I felt that his emphasis on the power of story and of comfort during war time was relevant and appropriate.”

Arguably the most notable aspect of the ceremony, however, was the naturalization of sixteen immigrants from twelve different countries. “I felt humbled,” said Jensen. “I had never seen anything like it before, nor was I expecting it, and I was overwhelmed with patriotism and hope for these new citizens.”

That afternoon, Professor Scott Hancock of the Africana Studies Department gave a speech titled, “Liberation from the Future as Well as the Past: Black Responses to the Gettysburg Address,” the annual Gettysburg Addresses Lincoln Lecture. Dr. Joseph Glatthaar of theUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill gave the 54th annual Robert Fortenbaugh Memorial Lecture later that evening, further enticing the historically-inclined audience with his cultural discussion of the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia.

A parade on Saturday afternoon brought townspeople, even children and pets, to the streets to celebrate this historical heritage. Union and Confederate reenactors (flags included) walked the streets once more, joined by President Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, among other notables.

The most moving moments of the weekend, however, memorialized the recent passing of Gettysburg’s own Lincoln, portrayer James Getty. His top hat marched the parade in his stead, marking the persona so missed by fans across the nation, much like his character so long before.

This poignant emotion was renewed that evening with the 13th annual Remembrance Illumination at the National Cemetery. 3,512 luminary candles and a recitation of fallen soldiers’ names once again marked the “final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.”

Made possible by the College, The Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania, Gettysburg National Military Park and more, this weekend successfully brought increased tourism and appreciation to Gettysburg in an unforgettable way.

 

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