Justice Antonin Scalia at Gettysburg

20 11 2013

ScaliaYesterday, as I watched via live streaming video and the commemoration of the sesquicentennial of the Gettysburg Address at Gettysburg National Cemetery drew to a close, it struck me that I was witnessing something special. No, not the roll of usual suspects who delivered speeches that were, well, nice. Not memorable, but nice. Everything rolled along. But then, the Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Alejandro Mayorkas, took the podium to recognize sixteen immigrants who would become citizens as part of the ceremony. Each candidate citizen rose by country, and then Mr. Mayorkas introduced the official who was to administer the oath, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. And I knew it as I heard it – Scalia’s apparently extemporaneous words were capturing the spirit of Abraham Lincoln’s famous little speech better than had anyone else that day. Here’s the text:

Before I administer the oath, I want to say a few words of welcome to the new citizens. What makes us Americans, what unites us, is quite different from that which unites other countries.

There’s a word, ‘unAmerican.’ We used to have a House unAmerican Activities Committee. There’s no equivalent word in foreign languages. It would mean nothing in French political discourse to refer to something as unFrench, or in German political discourse to refer to something as unGerman. It is only Americans, we Americans, who identify ourselves not by our blood or by our color, or by our race or by where we were born, but rather by our fidelity to certain political principles.

That’s very strange. It’s unique in human history, I believe.

We are, as you heard from the Director a nation of immigrants, who have come here mostly for two reasons. First, for freedom. From the pilgrims in the 17th century to the Cubans and the North Koreans in the 20th and 21st centuries.

And that freedom, of course, is not free, as the dead who rest buried here can demonstrate. The last line of our ‘Star Spangled Banner’ is, ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave.’ The two go together. Freedom is for the brave.

The second reason they came, these immigrants, was for opportunity. My father, who was the most patriotic man I ever knew, used to say that in the old country, if your father was a shoemaker, you would be a shoemaker. And in America, you could be whatever you were willing to work hard enough to be and had the talent to be.

And his son ended up on the Supreme Court.

My Grandmother expected me to be President; I didn’t quite make that. But it was possible. It is possible in America.

So welcome, my soon-to-be fellow citizens, to the nation of Americans. May America bring you all that you expect from it. And may you give it all that it expects from you.

Thanks to Interpreting the Civil War for the transcript.





Saving Lincoln

6 11 2012

A while back, I was contacted by a screenwriter working on this project. I don’t think she was quite satisfied with my opinion regarding Lincoln and soldiers returning from Bull Run. But they seem to have endeavored to persevere despite the withholding of my imprimatur for the proposed scene.





Lincoln C. K.

4 11 2012

Two of my favorite people all rolled into one.





Thomas Lowry’s Version of Events

20 02 2011

Fellow blogger Drew Wagenhoffer passed along the information that Dr. Thomas Lowry (see here and here) has started a WordPress site presenting his side of the whole National Archives incident. You can read it for yourself here.  While he is using a blog platform, I’m not sure if he’s going to make regular posts as events unfold or simply revise/add to what he already has up. Dr. Lowry claims to have taken a lie detector test and passed with flying colors. He has also named the men who obtained his confession – Mitchell Yockelson and Greg Tremaglio – and one way or another I’m interested to see what happens next.





From the Archives: Grace Bedell

17 02 2011

Since we’re commemorating Lincoln’s train trip to the inauguration in 1861 and I’ve been too busy to post anything lately, here’s a link to an earlier article on the statues of Lincoln and pen-pal Grace Bedell in Westfield, NY.  Check it out.





Is A Puzzlement

4 02 2011

I admit it – I’m a sucker for The King and I. In 1977 I actually got to see a revival of the musical at the Uris Theater on Broadway. Orchestra seats. Yul Freakin’ Brynner. Close enough to see all the gears and stuff and the line where his face panel met his robot head.  OK, just kidding about that last bit, but he was awesome in Westworld, too. But yes, we were close to the stage, and Brynner in his late fifties looked like he could still kick ass, even while doing the polka.  And I love the film, though my wife gets very annoyed when I correct her on occasions when she inadvertently allows her head to be higher than King’s…er, mine.  But why am I talking about this?  The Civil War Trust has a Primary Sources entry up on their website about Abraham Lincoln’s rejection of the offer of Siam’s King Rama IV (aka Mongut at left as portrayed by The Man) of war elephants to help defeat the Confederacy.  Check it out.

And now for a little singin’ ‘n dancin':





“The Conspirator” Trailer

27 01 2011

It looks like Robert Redford’s The Conspirator will be making its debut on tax day, April 15, 2011.  Here’s the trailer (hat tip to Hop Tak):








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