Thursday, November 20, 2008
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Gettysburg Address art display at Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library

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[November 20, 2008]  SPRINGFIELD -- Seven score and five years ago, President Abraham Lincoln delivered what would become one of the most famous speeches in world history. On the 145th anniversary of that speech, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library opened a new exhibit entitled "The Gettysburg Address," featuring 35 pieces of art by famed illustrator Sam Fink. The exhibit may be viewed free of charge in the library through Feb. 1, 2009.

"Fink's images are stirring in their elegant simplicity. Sam Fink has enhanced Lincoln's powerful words, making them more enduring and contemporary," said Thomas Schwartz, Illinois state historian.

CivicThe 35 illustrations each measure 16 by 23 inches and were all drawn and hand-lettered by the artist. There is also an additional piece of art and a chronology of events leading up to the ratification of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery.

"When Abraham Lincoln said ‘this nation shall have a new birth of freedom,' it meant to me that freedom needs to be born anew in each generation, and each generation has to earn it. My artwork reflects this feeling," said Fink.

The exhibit was opened Wednesday with the participation of five students who had won a Gettysburg Address essay contest in Ashikaga, Japan. The five, who read portions of their winning essays at the presidential library, were chosen from 100 entrants by panels of judges from Japan and Springfield, the sister city of Ashikaga. These winners received an all-expenses-paid trip to the Springfield-area Lincoln sites and recited the Gettysburg Address in the Old State Capitol State Historic Site, where Lincoln delivered his famous "House Divided" speech. The essay contest is an endorsed project of the Illinois Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.

"The Illinois Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission is honored to welcome and endorse the Ashikaga, Japan, Gettysburg Address essay contest winners," said Marilyn Kushak, commission chairwoman. "Their understanding, perspective and interpretation of this famous speech's relevance serves as an international inspiration for all."

Fink's original illustrations were created for his book, "The Gettysburg Address," published in 2007 by Welcome Books. The book includes an introduction by world-renowned Lincoln scholar Gabor Boritt, author of "The Gettysburg Gospel." Both books may be purchased in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum gift shop.

Also on Wednesday, officials in Chicago announced that schoolchildren from across the country are being invited to simultaneously read the Gettysburg Address at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 12, 2009, as part of the celebration of Lincoln's 200th birthday. The effort will originate from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and is being coordinated by the museum, the Illinois Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and the Illinois State Board of Education.

The Feb. 12 Gettysburg Address reading, called the Four Score and Seven Project, is generously supported by JPMorgan Chase and The Chicago Community Trust.

Educational materials concerning Lincoln Bicentennial activities are now available to teachers at
. In addition, Illinois teachers will now have access to a special curriculum that focuses exclusively on Abraham Lincoln. The Bicentennial Resource Guide covers lessons about the 16th president's life, from his early days in Kentucky and Indiana, to his time in Illinois, his presidency and assassination. The Illinois State Board of Education is making this special Lincoln curriculum available to teachers in conjunction with the Indiana Department of Education. The lessons, developed by the Indiana Department of Education, align to the Illinois Learning Standards, and teachers can download the material at no charge from

Citizens of all ages are also encouraged to submit entries for the global online essay contest "Looking for Your Lincoln Hero." The new submission deadline is March 1, 2009, and four winners will receive a trip during the summer of 2009 to see Lincoln legacy sites, including the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Visit for more information.

Historical background

For three days, July 1-3, 1863, Union forces commanded by Gen. George Meade and Confederate forces led by the military genius Robert E. Lee battled for victory in the sleepy Pennsylvania village of Gettysburg. Lee had made a daring attempt to take the war into the North with the hope of demoralizing a war-weary Northern public. But his overwhelming defeat at Gettysburg marked an end to any serious Confederate invasion of the North. And Meade's failure to pursue Lee prevented the knockout blow that Lincoln and the North hoped would end the bloody war.

The carnage left in the wake of battle staggered even the most battle-hardened veteran. Lee lost more than 23,000 of his 75,000 men at Gettysburg, with Meade losing 23,000 of 85,000 Union soldiers. The shallow graves hurriedly dug to bury the dead were inadequate as rain and animals quickly uncovered the bodies.

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David Wills, a local attorney, suggested that 17 acres be purchased as a proper burial place for all of the dead. States were asked to send delegations to the dedication scheduled for Oct. 23, 1863. Edward Everett, the foremost orator in the country, was contacted on Sept. 23, inquiring if he would deliver the dedication oration. Everett responded favorably but suggested that the occasion be delayed until Nov. 19 to allow him adequate time to prepare his remarks. As an afterthought, Wills sent an invitation to President Abraham Lincoln on Nov. 2 to offer "a few appropriate remarks."

Popular mythology has Abraham Lincoln penning his speech on the train to Gettysburg. In fact, he began working on his speech immediately. The president composed two drafts in advance of its delivery, and when staying at the home of David Wills the evening of Nov. 18, he asked for paper to rewrite portions of his remarks. Following the speech, Lincoln wrote two copies to be published in books, including a bound volume featuring Everett's and Lincoln's speeches that was sold in 1864 to raise money for the war effort. This volume was purchased in 1944 by the state of Illinois, and it is the source of the Gettysburg Address owned by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

"Lincoln's brief speech reminds Americans that the ideals of equality and freedom are foundational to healthy democratic government. A moving testament to the honored dead, the address also is a challenge to contemplate what was the ultimate cause for their sacrifice," said Schwartz. "Lincoln urges Americans to expand their understanding of American equality through a ‘new birth of freedom' for the former enslaved peoples. The Gettysburg Address remains a speech for the ages."

For more information on exhibits and programs at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, visit To learn what is planned to commemorate Lincoln's 200th birthday in February 2009, visit


The text of the Nov. 19, 1863, Gettysburg Address follows:

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.

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 can not dedicate, we can not consecrate—we can not 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.

[Text from Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum file received from the Illinois Office of Communication and Information]


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