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Do Now

Does the Gettysburg Address still have relevance in America today? What parts of it apply to our society now? Would President Lincoln be satisfied with the progress America has made since the Civil War?


Four score and seven years ago … well actually, 150 years ago — on November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered his now legendary Gettysburg Address in. A mere 273 words in length, in honor of the soldiers who fought in one of the most important battles of the Civil War, the speech became one of the most influential speeches in American history. Emphasizing the ideal of human equality underscored in the Declaration of Independence, called for a “new birth of freedom” in the aftermath of the vast degree of suffering and sacrifice wrought by the Civil War.

To commemorate the anniversary, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns embarked on the Gettysburg project, challenging people around the country, particularly students, to memorize and recite the address in its entirety. Participants are encouraged to submit their videos to Public figures, celebrities and the five living U.S. presidents have all partaken.

Burns launched the project following the production of his new film The Address – which will be aired on PBS next April. The film follows students at Greenwood School in Putney, VT – a school for boys with various developmental and learning disabilities – as they work to memorize the speech and recite it on Lincoln’s birthday in February.

Although America is a vastly different place now than it was 150 years ago when Lincoln delivered his address, the words resonate as strongly now. While the nation not as violently divided today as we once were, fractures still permeate American society and politics. Lincoln, in his speech, stressed the importance of unity in the face of adversity, and the necessity of finding common ground amidst a sea of differences – goals that remain powerfully relevant today.


KQED Education video Ken Burns on the Gettysburg Address
Ken Burns visited KQED on December 6, 2013. We had a chance to sit down with him and discuss his thoughts on the Gettysburg Address and get his interpretation of how President Lincoln would view the state of the Nation today.

To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with @KQEDedspace and end it with #DoNowGettysburg

For more info on how to use Twitter, click here.

We encourage students to reply to other people’s tweets to foster more of a conversation. Also, if students tweet their personal opinions, ask them to support their ideas with links to interesting/credible articles online (adding a nice research component) or retweet other people’s ideas that they agree/disagree/find amusing. We also value student-produced media linked to their tweets like memes or more extensive blog posts to represent their ideas. Of course, do as you can… and any contribution is most welcomed.

More Resources

PBS Film presents Learn the Address
To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, documentarian Ken Burns, along with numerous partners, has launched a national effort to encourage everyone in America to video record themselves reading or reciting the speech.The collection of recordings housed on this site will continue to grow as more and more people are inspired by the power of history and take the challenge to LEARN THE ADDRESS.

PBS NewsHour Extra article The Gettysburg Address – How History is Made
Tuesday November 19 marks the 150th anniversary of what many historians say is among the best and most important speeches given in the United States. In this lesson, students learn about and evaluate the hallowed 272-word document spoken by President Abraham Lincoln.

learn/teach/learn post Gettysburg Address lessons – for students and elected officials
November 19, 2013, is the sesquicentennial of the Gettysburg Address. Learn the Address and Getty Ready are two quality educational resources that have been created to help all of us appreciate that 272-word speech.

  • D corona

    Society in America has improved form racial issues well somewhat improved. America has not completed Lincolns word. People are still treated different from either being homosexual, bisexual, or lesbian. They are being bullied and in some places are not allowed to even marry each other. Abraham Lincoln would be impressed with races not being divided ,but would be ashamed that people are still being bullied from having different interest.

    • Jae Hun

      I agree with the idea that people are bullied having different interests, but I don’t think racial issue has improved a lot. I see racism going on everyday with hispanic, asian, and blacks. We still have to work on the racism part

  • Tyler Ashbrook

    There is a vast space of advancement we have gone through since the Gettysburg address, some advancements were good, while some were bad. We have been working towards national equality for all races since the birth of the nation and we have almost succeeded. What little racism and social Darwinism is left is shrugged off because we are able to see past it. On another note though, have we reached freedom? I’m not too sure about that. Sure our economy looks good and our unemployment is below 8%, but that really means nothing in terms of national wealth. We hit the dept ceiling and raised it because the government has been busy bailing out corporations and wasting money. Right now, The Average U.S. citizen has less rights and freedoms than 50-60 years ago. We have been stripped of more rights than we have been given. I do not think Abraham would be too proud of this nation because while we have been fighting for equality, we’ve been stripped of our own rights.

  • Nikki J.

    The Gettysburg Address has resonated with society since. It made us honor the soldiers who lost their lives protecting basic human rights. This still applies to the soldiers now and people in general who have fought for a worthy cause. Abraham Lincoln said that the land the soldiers fell on would be holy forever, and he was right. The country still remembers the battle and the amount of deaths that resulted from it. It was the greatest loss of American blood. Abraham Lincoln would have been proud of this nation because we have come so far in civil rights for all humans. We are still working on it like in the case of marriage equality for homosexuals, yet we have come a long way in other civil issues.

  • Alex M

    This speech was so simple, yet so powerful. It did (And still does) help us remember the soldiers who fell protecting millions of others. It also gave us a strong, solid push towards equality. The few minutes it took to give this speech made a permanent impact on the entire nation. These few words capture all the pain, suffering, and struggle we went through to make everyone free. I feel that Lincoln would be incredibly proud of where this country is today, although we still have plenty of room to improve.

  • Francesca Botto

    The Gettysburg Address has definitely resonnated with society since the moment it was given. From that day on we have always honored our soldiers and all those who fought for our country whether it’d be in war or protests. This being said, our country has never agreed that war is the best answer, but has prayed for the brave souls who fought in them. Another bit of the Gettysburg Address was an attempt to unite the country as one, which over the years has become more and more true.

  • Stephanie Sanchez

    The Gettysburg address is a very simple, but powerful speech. It has helped keep our nation together and we have more pride in our country. Today, we still commemorate our soldiers and show all our love and support. We also still give thanks to them for all their hard work and sacrificing their lives for our freedom. I feel that Lincoln would be proud of our country today because we have become more united and everyone has civil rights. We still have many issues to work on politically, but other than that, we are doing well as a united country.

  • Brandon Peterson

    The GA still has relevance in todays society, as we still have room to improve in its subjects. Our troops are still remembered, even those that died long ago, and we take the time to remember them. Everyone is still not treated equally in all aspects, and our government may not be exactly what Lincoln invisioned, but we have made progress. I think that Lincoln would be proud of the progress America has made since his time, despite our imperfections.


Laura Robledo

Laura Robledo studied English at UC Berkeley. When she is not reading, looking up new music, or running half marathons, she loves to explore the beautiful city of San Francisco.

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