Four Score and Seven Years Ago…The Gettysburg Address celebrates 150 years with Ken Burns PBS special
Ken Burns announced this week a major national public outreach campaign in advance of the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address — November 19 — to challenge everyone across the country, especially students, to learn about and read aloud the Gettysburg Address.
The initiative, in conjunction with PBS and WETA, will run through April 15, 2014, when Burns’s THE ADDRESS, a 90-minute feature-length documentary, will air at 9 p.m. ET on PBS stations nationwide (check local listings).
The campaign will use social media and videos from public figures, political leaders, entertainers and Lincoln historians reading the Gettysburg Address to encourage people to submit their own videos to www.learntheaddress.org.
Among those submitting videos are Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Senators Marco Rubio, Charles Schumer and Jay Rockefeller, former Governors Charlie Crist, Mario Cuomo, and Jim Gilmore, Former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Rabbi Peter Rubinstein, Wolf Blitzer, Warren Buffet, Carol Burnett, Louis CK, Stephen Colbert, Bill Gates, Whoopi Goldberg, David Gregory, Arianna Huffington, Gwen Ifill, Jimmy Kimmel, Vicky Lawrence, Rachel Maddow, Alyssa Milano, Rita Moreno, Conan O’Brien, Bill O’Reilly, Robin Roberts, Jerry Seinfeld, Bob Schieffer, Steven Spielberg, Martha Stewart, Taylor Swift, Uma Thurman, Nina Totenberg, Usher, Shane Victorino and more. These videos — and those submitted by any member of the public — will be uploaded to the project’s web site beginning today. Burns will also be in Gettysburg on the 150th anniversary to film ordinary Americans reciting the Gettysburg Address.
The campaign is inspired by the subject of Burns’s film THE ADDRESS, which tells the story of a tiny school in Putney Vermont, the Greenwood School, where each year the students are encouraged to memorize, practice and recite the Gettysburg Address. In its exploration of the Greenwood School, the film also unlocks the history, context and importance of President Lincoln’s most powerful address.
“In his address, President Lincoln said, ‘The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here,’ and yet 150 years later, the students of the Greenwood School are using his momentous words to overcome adversity,” Burns said. “We want to tell this story to inspire everyone across the nation, especially school children, to learn the rich history of American freedom and sacrifice embedded in one of the most important declarations ever made.”
The Greenwood School students, boys ages 11-17, all face a range of complex learning differences that make their personal, academic and social progress challenging. THE ADDRESS reveals how President Lincoln’s historic words motivate and engage these students a century-and-a-half after President Lincoln delivered a speech that would go on to embolden the Union cause with some of the most stirring words ever spoken.
“THE ADDRESS is an extraordinary film that directly connects this historic speech with people today, making history come alive in the way only Ken and his team can accomplish,” said Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive and GM of General Audience Programming at PBS. “Through our social media platforms and extensive outreach arm, along with those of local stations, we hope to create a national moment to celebrate our history and our country today.”
In addition, WETA, the Washington, DC, public television station that is Burns’s production partner, has developed a standards-based education curriculum designed to help students understand why the Gettysburg Address is regarded as one of the finest political speeches of all time, along with tips and strategies for memorization. The lesson plans and activities will be available to all schools around the country through the film’s companion web site: pbs.org/theaddress. Educators can also access these resources through PBS Learning Media.
WETA and PBS will work with local public television stations to reach into schools and communities throughout the country.
On November 19 at 9:00 p.m. ET, PBS will air LINCOLN@GETTYSBURG, a film that details how Abraham Lincoln re-invented leadership though his pioneering use of the telegraph — the internet of the 19th century — and how this revolution in communication shaped the Gettysburg Address, the words that remade America. The telegraph gave Lincoln power to wield personal control across distant battlefields and connected him to the country in new ways, as information poured in, allowing him to sense the mood of the country faster than ever before. LINCOLN@GETTYSBURG is a production of Partisan Pictures.
THE ADDRESS is a production of Florentine Films and WETA Washington, DC, and is directed by Ken Burns. Funding for THE ADDRESS is provided by Bank of America; PBS; Corporation for Public Broadcasting and members of The Better Angels Society, including Robert & Beverly Grappone.
For more information and photos, go to pbs.org/pressroom.
WETA Washington, D.C., is the third-largest producing station for public television and the flagship public broadcaster in the nation’s capital. WETA productions and co-productions include PBS NewsHour, Washington Week with Gwen Ifill, In Performance at the White House, The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize and documentaries by filmmaker Ken Burns, as well as historical specials such as the recent six-part Latino Americans. Sharon Percy Rockefeller is president and CEO of WETA. More information on WETA and its programs and services is available at weta.org.
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