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.





My Name In Lights

19 06 2013

I still have not seen the film, but a friend who has tells me this is how yours truly shows up in the credits at the end of Saving Lincoln:Saving Lincoln

Now my life is complete.





Stephen Spielberg at Gettysburg

20 11 2012

Here’s Stephen Spielberg’s speech at the Dedication Day ceremony in the National Cemetery at Gettysburg yesterday (crank up the volume.)

My favorite line? “But we are filmmakers; we are not scholars, we are not historians.” It would be nice if everyone could keep that in mind.

As for Mr. Spielberg’s new film, Lincoln, I saw it with friends over the weekend. A great flick – two thumbs up. Cool stuff to look for: Kelly Leak; Brother D-Day; Dan’s Appendage; King Arthur’s Son; That Amish Kid.





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.





Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Theatrical Trailer

13 02 2012

Coming June 22, 2012





Leesten to Dem, Cheeldren of da Night. Vaht Moosic Dey Make!

10 02 2012

Lots of chatter on the web about the Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter film now in production. I reviewed the Seth Grahame-Smith novel before it was released a while back. In fact, I wrote a few articles on the topic. But just for kicks, go here for all my Vampiric posts – they’ll run backwards from this one.





Ford’s Theater

2 02 2012

As part of my little tour of Washington, D. C. back in June 2011, I walked over to Ford’s Theater. I’d never been there before. The current complex has a much larger footprint today, but you can still make out the original building (click on all the below images for larger ones):

The Petersen House across the street, where AL died, was closed for renovations:

 

There’s a lot of cool assassination ephemera in the basement museum, including the door to the President’s box, the gun that did the deed, the boot that Dr. Mudd cut off Booth’s broken leg, and one of the hoods worn by (most of) the conspirators as they made their way from their cells to the courtroom:

   

But my favorite was this fundraiser quilt that was signed by notable figures of the day, including my two favorite Georges:

   

I feel bad for Zach Harton (2nd panel, top row), don’t you?

The tour concluded with the reconstructed theater:

  

Of course, I’m always looking for the sights and sites less seldom seen. In this case, it was the back of the building, and as usual I had the place to myself. I made my best bet as to which doorway was the one used by Booth to exit the building, mount his Peanut-tended horse, and make his escape up the alley (he had to make a left right around the spot where I took the first photo below). Even without the lovely Carol Merrill’s help I think I picked the right door, based on what I found on the threshold:

    

Craig Swain’s visit to the Ford’s Theater museum.

Robert Moore’s relative was on stage that fateful night!





The Lincoln Pew

30 01 2012

In early June, 2011, I made  a trip to Washington, DC to speak to the Capitol Hill Civil War Roundtable (you can read about it here). It was a logistically challenging trip. I stayed with friends in Arlington on Sunday evening, then headed into the District Monday morning on the Metro. It was a hot day and I intended to do some site seeing, so I took my speachafying clothes and dropped them off with friend Ron Baumgarten. Then it was off on a free form tour. I’ll share some of the photos from that sojourn over the next few days or so.

My first stop was one I think most folks don’t make: the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. This church – albeit in a different building at a different location – was frequented by the Lincoln family while they lived a few blocks away on Pennsylvania Avenue. Inside the new building is a very cool artefact (click the icons for larger images):

  

The Lincoln family pew. I had the whole place to myself. And yes, you can sit in the pew. And yes, you can scoot your butt from one end to the other just to make sure you were in the right spot (though AL often stood during service). Check it out, but be respectful.





Preview: Penguin Books “Lincoln on the Civil War”

14 04 2011

Penguin Books has published a new pocket hardcover, Lincoln on the Civil War: Selected Speeches. It’s a compact, handy, non-annotated collection, selected from Penguin’s own The Portable Abraham Lincoln, and includes the following, essential Lincoln speeches:

  • Address to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois (1838)
  • “House Divided” Speech at Springfield, Illinois (1858)
  • Address at Cooper Institute, New York, New York (1860)
  • Speech at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1861)
  • First Inaugural Address, Washington, D. C. (1861)
  • Emancipation Proclamation, Washington, D. C. (1863)
  • The Gettysburg Address, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (1863)
  • Second Inaugural Address, Washington, D. C. (1865)
  • Speech on Reconstruction, Washington, D. C. (1865)

Look at this as the AL equivalent of a pocket Constitution, which you can pull out when someone spouts off that “Lincoln said…” Kind of like your own little Marshall McLuhan.








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