Today is the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address. As part of Ken Burns upcoming documentary on the Address, he got a wide-ranging collection of celebrities and all the living presidents to recite the speech, and then he edited them together.
Perhaps the most amusing result of that project is how ABC News chose to report on it.
Probably the second most amusing thing -- "amusing" if you have a sick, sardonic sense of humor -- is how the far right reacted to something related to all this.
Footage of President Barack Obama reciting the Gettysburg Address for the project is posted on YouTube. In it, he omits the words "under God." Now, if you were a rational-thinking or fair-minded person, you might think there was a perfectly understandable reason for this and go seek it out. But to go to a YouTube page and see what can only be described as a mass meltdown is quite an experience. All manner of conspiracy theory, hatred and vitriol is spewed out, decrying the omission and attributing it to every bad possibility you can imagine.
Mind you, there is of course a perfectly understandable reason.
The participants each recited the full Gettysburg Address, from which their selection was edited in. Mr. Obama, as a well-known Lincoln scholar and admirer chose to recite his version using the "Nicolay copy."
As the Gettysburg Foundation notes, there are only five copies of the Gettysburg Address in existence from that time. Of them, only two were immediate, the "Nicolay copy" and the "Hay copy" -- the other three came quite a bit later.
(John Nicolay was President Lincoln's secretary, and John Hay was the president's assistant secretary.)
What the Gettysburg Foundation explains on its website --
"The 'Nicolay Copy' is often called the 'first draft' because it is believed to be the earliest of the copies that exist of the Gettysburg Address. The 'Hay' or 'second draft' version was probably made by Lincoln shortly after his return from Gettysburg. Its phrasing more closely matches contemporaneous accounts of the speech than that of the 'Nicolay' or 'first draft' version."
President Obama used the "Nicolay copy," most likely one would reasonably assume because it is considered the first. Simply checking the Gettysburg Foundation here, the "Nicolay copy" of the Gettysburg Address omits mention of "under God." And that's why it doesn't appear in Mr. Obama's recitation. (And it's important to note that the "Hay copy," the other of the two most-reliable versions, does not mention God either.)
But the truth is even more clear than even that. As Ken Burns posted on his website...HE gave the president the "first copy" -- the Nicolay copy -- to read.
And how could you possibly have found that out? Well, for starters you could have gone to Ken Burns' website for the project -- where he explains it on the top of the the Home Page!
So much for conspiracies, angst and hatred. Reality is such a pesky thing. Not that anyone on those pages would seemingly care. When you hate, your hatred is argument enough.
For the rest, here's the Ken Burns film. Perhaps the shortest Ken Burns film known to man.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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