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BC to Commemorate 150th Anniversary of Gettysburg Address Nov. 19, 2013

undergraduates organize daylong campus recitation

Lincoln at Gettysburg


CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. (November 2013)—A group of Boston College students has organized a daylong commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address to be held on November 19 in front of BC’s historic Gasson Hall. [A schedule for the day is available at on.bc.edu/BCGburg150.]

From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday the 19th, BC students and faculty will read Abraham Lincoln’s historic address and then offer personal reflections on its significance. The celebration will include an introduction from Professor Robin Fleming, a recent MacArthur Fellowship recipient and the chair of the BC History Department, recitations and comments from several BC history faculty and dozens of students, Civil War-era pieces performed by BC musical groups,  and the playing of taps by the BC ROTC Color Guard.

As part of a class project, BC seniors and history majors Anthony Bellitti, Meghan Daly and Kaitlyn McGillycuddy worked with their classmates to organize the event after being inspired by History Assistant Professor Jeremy Clarke, S.J.—an Australian Jesuit priest and expert on Chinese history and culture--who encouraged them to pay tribute to their heritage.

“The irony is that it took an Australian Jesuit who teaches Chinese history to convince us as American students to celebrate our history,” said Bellitti. “This commemoration was our response to his challenge to explore the specifics of our nation’s past.”

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which was delivered on November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pa., paid solemn tribute to the fallen heroes of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, a decisive turning point in the four-year conflict. It is considered to be among the greatest and most poignant speeches in American history.

Bellitti, a senior from Basking Ridge, NJ, who minors in classical studies and runs on the men’s varsity cross country team, said there is a general lack of awareness of history among American college students that this commemoration will attempt to address. “Studying student movements in China as part of Fr. Clarke’s contemporary Chinese history class, From Sun Yat-sen to the Beijing Olympics, taught us that we needed to remind our generation of the struggles that others have experienced to get us where we are today,” said Bellitti.

Meghan Daly, a senior history and computer science major from Arcadia , Calif., who also serves as captain of the BC women’s rugby team, said that she and her fellow student organizers were particularly inspired by the Chinese students of the May 4th Movement of 1919, who stood up to defend their history and culture in the presence of foreign imperialism.

“Fr. Clarke inspired us to accept this challenge on behalf of our own history and culture,” said Daly. “It has proved to be a fun opportunity that was both interesting and compelling.”

Daly and McGillycuddy said the group plans to film the recitations, some of which will be delivered by memory, while others are read, and contribute them to Civil War documentarian Ken Burn’s popular project: Learn the Address.

Fr. Clarke, who uses the Twitter hashtag #historyisthebestmajor, said that his students are not only commemorating historical moments, but are making history themselves. “Increasingly, I have become a believer in students being the subject and not the object of their learning,” said Fr. Clarke.

“They learn best by doing. So I told them, ‘This is a history class, and you have significant things in American history to reflect upon. So get going.’”

The Tuesday event is open to all members of the BC community and the general public.


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