On Nov. 19, 1863, 156 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the most famous speeches in American history: The Gettysburg Address. Four months after the end of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, President Lincoln dedicated the site at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, as a military cemetery to honor the lives lost over those gruesome three days. The Battle of Gettysburg marked a decisive and pivotal victory for the Union, ending General Robert E. Lee’s invasion of the North, and sending the Confederate army back into Virginia.
The dedication ceremony was attended by 15,000 spectators, including the governors of six northern states, and reporters from every major American newspaper. Ironically, the main event of the ceremony was not Lincoln’s legendary speech, but rather the two-hour oration delivered by the former Secretary of State Edward Everrett. Everett’s speech was 13,607 words while Lincoln’s speech was only 275 words.
Lincoln’s speech is incredibly important in American history, as it marked the moment when the cause behind the war completely changed. When the war first began, the goal of the Union was simply to reunite the country and bring the rebellious South back under the American flag. The Gettysburg Address made clear that Lincoln not only wanted to reunite the country, but to forever rid American history of the stain of slavery which had existed since the birth of the United States. In order to make this country the true land of the free, Lincoln believed they had to win the war to bring equality and justice for all.
On Nov. 22, 1963, 56 years ago, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated while traveling in an open-top convertible in Dallas, Texas. Accompanied by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, Governor John Connally and his wife, President Kennedy greeted the enthusiastic crowds greeting him as he entered downtown Dallas. The vehicle passed the Texas Book Depository Building at approximately 12:30 p.m., where alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots at the car, fatally wounding Kennedy and injuring Connally. The president was taken to Dallas’ Parkland Hospital where he was pronounced dead 30 minutes later.
Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn into office as the nation’s 36th president at 2:39 p.m. aboard Air Force One. The impromptu ceremony was witnessed by close to 30 people, with Jacqueline Kennedy in attendance, still covered in the blood of her beloved husband. The following day, the new President Johnson declared that the nation would observe Nov. 25, 1963 as a national day of mourning, in accordance with the slain president’s funeral. Following the requiem Mass at St. Matthew’s Catholic Cathedral, President Kennedy was buried in Arlington National Cemetery where Mrs. Kennedy lit an eternal flame to forever remember his life and death.
While we will never know exactly what unfolded on the afternoon of Nov. 22, 1963, as Lee Harvey Oswald was shot by a vengeful citizen before he could be tried, I would like to take this moment to remember the life of the incredible John F. Kennedy. Arguably one of the United States’ most popular presidents, the Kennedy administration ushered in a new era of hope and prosperity for the American people. A champion of civil rights and the savior of the Cuban Missile Crisis, JFK will go down in history as one of the United States’ greatest presidents.
Gino Giansanti is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.