On November 19, 1863 Abraham Lincoln stood in war-torn Gettysburg, Pennsylvania at the height of the Civil War to give what would become the most famous speech in American history, the “Gettysburg Address.”

Four months earlier, between July 1-3, 1863 the Union and Confederate armies suffered casualties estimated between 46,000 and 51,000 in the cataclysmic battle that began turning the tide toward the North’s favor in the Civil War. The landscape of Gettysburg would be forever changed by the battle–residents said the smell of putrid death lingered in the air for months, the work of burying the dead consumed local residents. The earth was scarred by canon wheels, thousands of horse hooves from the cavalry, and the blood of fallen soldiers. It was at this scene, President Lincoln gave his two-minute address in dedication of the Soldier’s National Cemetery at Gettysburg.

November 19, 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of this momentous event in United States history.


To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, filmmaker Ken Burns, along with numerous partners has launched a national effort to encourage everyone in America to video record themselves reading or reciting Abraham Lincoln’s famous speech.

So far, readings from a wide range of Americans are online at the website learntheaddress.org including all five living presidents, Robin Roberts, Stephen Colbert, Bob Schieffer, Whoopi Goldberg,  Stephen Speilberg, David Gregory, Gwen Ifill, Conan O’Brien, Martha Stewart and many others.

The Gettysburg Address mash up including the Presidents of the United States

Louis C.K. & Jerry Seinfeld

Stephen Colbert

President Bill Clinton

Gabby Giffords & Friends

Whoopi Goldberg

Bill Gates

Jimmy Kimmel

Uma Thurman

Rachel Maddow

Check out www.learntheaddress.org to check out and view hundreds more!


It’s easy! Visit learntheaddress.org click on “Share Your Gettysburg Address” and follow these simple steps:

  1. Download or print the words to the Gettysburg Address from the site and practice reading it out loud. Or if you are up for the whole challenge — memorize!
  2. Record yourself (or have a friend record you) reading the speech using your computer, laptop, tablet, mobile device or digital video recorder.
  3. Upload your video to YouTube and submit your link!


The inspiration for this project is the tiny Greenwood School in the small town of Putney, Vermont. The school’s students, boys ages 11-17, all face a range of learning differences that have made their personal, academic and social progress extremely challenging. Yet each year they are encouraged to practice, memorize, and recite the Gettysburg Address.

The Greenwood School is the focus of Burns’s next film, THE ADDRESS, which will air on PBS April 15, 2014. The 90-minute, feature-length documentary shines a light on this extraordinary school and its efforts to memorialize the Gettysburg Address. The film interweaves this contemporary story with the history, context and importance of the Address, which remains one of the most important declarations ever made on human equality.

The learntheaddress.org website and videos will be utilized to create on-going interest in the Gettysburg Address and to support the educational materials that will be distributed as part of the broadcast of Burns’s film.

Rhae Lynn Barnes is an Assistant Professor of American Cultural History at Princeton University (2018-) and President of the Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography. She is the co-founder and C.E.O. of U.S. History Scene and an Executive Advisor to the documentary series "Reconstruction: America After the Civil War" (now streaming PBS, 2019).