Class of 2025 Steps Into Gettysburg Tradition with First-Year Walk

The marquee at the Majestic Theatre welcomes the Class of 2025 to Gettysburg (Photo Aly Wein/The Gettysburgian)

The marquee at the Majestic Theatre welcomes the Class of 2025 to Gettysburg (Photo Aly Wein/The Gettysburgian)

By Phoebe Doscher, Editor-in-Chief and Katie Oglesby, Magazine Editor

On Thursday, Aug. 26, the Class of 2025 participated in the First-Year Walk, beginning in the Chapel and ending at the Gettysburg National Cemetery. The tradition is 17 years in the making, hearkening back to the 1863 trek to the Cemetery where students, faculty, and members of the community heard Abraham Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address. 

The first-year class carried out the tradition of walking through town to hear the address delivered this year by Jim Downs, the Gilder Lehrman-National Endowment for the Humanities Professor of Civil War Era Studies and History.

Before making the journey, President Bob Iuliano and Dean of Students Anne Ehrlich spoke to the students about the relevance of the historical tradition. Iuliano put the years-long tradition of walking through town into context with the current work and discourse ahead of the College’s newest students.

Students listen to President Iuliano in the Chapel before the First-Year Walk (Photo Aly Wein/The Gettysburgian)

Students listen to President Iuliano in the Chapel before the First-Year Walk (Photo Aly Wein/The Gettysburgian)

“As you do this walk, also be mindful of what you may see along the way: Confederate flags and other symbols of our nation’s past,” Iuliano said. “These symbols are powerful and painful reminders of the unfinished work still before us.”

Iuliano also spoke to the importance of the Gettysburg Address itself, as a precursor to a four-year educational experience steeped in history.

“I encourage all of you to take full advantage of this special occasion, and to reflect on every word of the address, and how it speaks to the nature of our democracy, of our world, and the commitments you want to make as students”

The students then made the walk through town to the Gettysburg National Cemetery. As per Cemetery guidelines, the group quieted upon entry, silently taking in the monuments and markers.

Liv Duffy ’22 sang the National Anthem and the Mayor of Gettysburg Theodore Streeter made opening remarks. He invited students to explore the area: “I hope you take the time to walk around the town to visit historic places to get a feel for what small town America is like.”

The Class of 2025 makes their way through town to the Gettysburg National Cemetery (Photo Aly Wein/The Gettysburgian)

The Class of 2025 makes their way through town to the Gettysburg National Cemetery (Photo Aly Wein/The Gettysburgian)

Streeter annually presents the key to the city to a student who represents the first-year class. Two years ago, he presented it to Thia Anyaoku ‘23. This year, he forgot, and promised to present it at a later date: “I can assure you that the key will be made and presented,” he said. 

Iuliano addressed the first-year class once more, reminding them to soak in the speech for its brevity and profundity: “May you consider the great tasks remaining before you today as you try  to find a higher purpose … and decide how you will use your education to notably advance.”

President Iuliano then introduced First-Year Walk Speaker, Professor Jim Downs, who recited the Gettysburg Address and gave a speech on its meaning. 

Professor Jim Downs addresses the Class of 2025 at the First-Year Walk (Photo Aly Wein/The Gettysburgian)

Professor Jim Downs addresses the Class of 2025 at the First-Year Walk (Photo Aly Wein/The Gettysburgian)

Downs used the opportunity to highlight the forgotten voices of the Civil War and contextualize the Emancipation Proclamation: “Part of the Gettysburg Address is trying to create a sense of unity in a place that doesn’t feel that unified,” he said. 

Drawing from his area of expertise in the history of medicine and public health, Downs elaborated on how infectious disease played a role in the Civil War. ”When we think about Lincoln as the Great Emancipator, we often don’t tell the larger stories that more people during the Civil War, whether they were soldiers, or whether they were formerly enslaved people, died of infectious disease,” he said.

To close out the ceremony, nationally-recognized military bugler Jari Villanueva played Taps. Villanueva served in the United States Air Force for 23 years, and now coordinates Taps Across America, 100 Nights of Taps, and Taps at the National WWI Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Print Friendly

Author: Phoebe Doscher

Phoebe Doscher ’22 is the Editor-in-Chief of The Gettysburgian. She formerly worked as Magazine Editor, News Editor, Assistant News Editor, Staff Writer, and Copyeditor. She is an English with a Writing Concentration and Theatre Arts double major. On campus, she is an intern for Gettysburg’s Communications & Marketing Office, the president of the Owl & Nightingale Players, and the News Director for WZBT, serving as the co-host of The Gettysburgian’s podcast On Target.

Author: Katie Oglesby

Katelyn (Katie) Oglesby '23 serves as the Magazine Editor for The Gettysburgian. She has previously served as News Editor, Assistant News Editor, and staff writer. She is an English with a Writing Concentration and Political Science double major hailing from San Diego, CA but living in rural North Carolina. She is also New Member Chair for Alpha Phi Omega, a staff editor and contributor for the Mercury Literary Magazine, and the humanities field aide for the Gettysburg College Headquarters academic journal. She can usually be found perusing the books in the Musselman Library browsing room.

Share This Post On

1 Comment

  1. It would be nice if they mentioned Thaddeus Stevens who helped found Gettysburg College and was one of the most important leaders during and after the Civil War. Perhaps next year.

    Post a Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *