The Gettysburg Address at 150 Years


November 19, 1863.

With the exception of the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address has done more than any other document in American history to shape the ideals which define our nation. In fact, it’s the synthesis of the two documents that helped create the American we know today – an America that didn’t exist before Lincoln’s famous speech.  Understanding the importance of Lincoln’s brief address on this – the 150th anniversary – sheds light on our origins as a nation, our national struggles today, and the role of the Gettysburg Address as bridge between the two.

The Gettysburg Address was born in the collapse of the United States.   When the Southern states seceded from the Union in late 1860, they did so citing much of the same rhetoric Jefferson used to justify American independence from England.  The South even went so far as to draft its own Declaration of Independence, copying much of the language from the original. Continue reading

Daniel Day-Lewis: An Olivier for Our Times

first-official-image-of-daniel-day-lewis-as-abraham-lincoln-110525-205-80Daniel Day-Lewis won a Golden Globe last night for his performance as Abraham Lincoln, and I don’t know one person on the planet who does not think that he deserves it.  Already the recipient of two Best Actor Academy Awards, one for My Left Foot in 1989, and another for There Will Be Blood in 2007, it would be no great shock if he won yet again for Lincoln.  This film is no mere period piece:  he is portraying the one President that both parties in our country deeply admire and claim as representing the best of both political traditions.  In an age of profound conflict between the two parties, there is a need to watch how a past leader negotiated the terrain in the bloody War Between the States.  Every time this film is shown, viewers cannot escape the question of what it really takes to be a great leader, even in the most tumultuous of times.  Day-Lewis is mesmerizing to watch on the screen as he effortlessly moves between the conflicts of the political and professional realm and into the griefs of his personal life.  Our stages may be smaller, but his performance reminds us how intertwined those worlds are, even as we obsessively try to separate them for domestic harmony and professional ambitions.  Lincoln was great, but he was also human, and Day-Lewis maintains the pathos and dignity of both. Continue reading