Mr. Flohr Goes to Gettysburg

To witness a reenactment of the famous speech, Mr. Flohr traveled to Gettysburg on November 19th and met President Lincoln, himself, while on the battlefield!

To witness a reenactment of the famous speech, Mr. Flohr traveled to Gettysburg on November 19th and met President Lincoln, himself, while on the battlefield!

Mr. Flohr

 

Greetings from Gettysburg!

Team, as you know, for the last 20 years I read the Gettysburg Address annually during the morning prayers. I believed that “it was all together fitting and proper” that I should start this tradition in order to remember and to relive these few simple but powerful words that redirected the course of American history.

As November 19th approached, you can imagine my anxious anticipation (like Ralphie in The Christmas Story) to actually stand on “this hallowed ground” to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s address.

That morning, my anticipation soon turned to panic as a fellow Gettysburg friend and I were stuck in bumper to bumper traffic on the Philadelphia expressway on our way to Gettysburg. Oh, no! Would we miss the ceremony? Would we miss this historic day? Luckily, the spirit of Lincoln was with us as we arrived only a little late for the first speaker.

The autumn day was perfect – the sun shining, the sky clear and blue, the air crisp and fresh.  The stage was framed by a golden poplar tree on one side and by the bare branches of a big oak tree, old enough to have witnessed the original Gettysburg Address, on the other.

The sesquicentennial program at the National Military Cemetery included a long list of government officials from Governor Tom Corbett and Senator Bob Casey to the keynote speaker, Sec. of Interior, Julie Sewell. The secretary called Gettysburg the “vortex of American history.” I agree, Gettysburg indeed is the epicenter of our heritage, and because of this, I am so proud to be from Pennsylvania.  President Obama respectfully sent a recorded message expressing the undeniable meaning of the Gettysburg Address. Later, a fellow Oakland Catholic colleague commented how symbolic it would have been if the first African-American president recited those famous words of the first anti-slavery president “that this new nation… is dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” However, in another sense, if the president did attend, many participants agreed that the secret service security detail might have disturbed, disrupted, and distracted the ceremony.

In any case, my anticipation mounted with each passing speaker. I joined the over 3,500 standing room-only crowd, who anxiously awaited the actual reenactment of the Address.  To my disappointment, Mr.Getty (an experienced Lincoln impersonator of the Gettysburg Address) delivered a very monotone rendition of Lincoln’s famous speech. Maybe my expectations exceeded the past reality. However, soon after the ceremony, I walked over to Lincoln’s statue and whispered each word of the GBA in my own meaningful manner.  For me, the Gettysburg Address is the greatest speech in American history, if not in the entire English language (no offense to Mr. Churchill) and deserved a better reading.

Ironically the high-water mark was not the Address, itself, but the swearing in of 16 immigrants by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia. As the new citizens recited the Pledge of Allegiance, they received the only standing ovation of the day; it was as if we all felt “a new birth of freedom.”

At this point, I called Mr. Finnegan to share my excitement.  I felt a special bond with him, because I knew that he had just recited the Gettysburg Address that morning for the first time.  Moreover, I am confident that he will be “highly resolved” to continue this tradition that started over 20 years ago. Hopefully, he and I will meet to celebrate a future anniversary of the Gettysburg Address together.

Finally, team, Nov. 19, 2013 was a beautiful day of history linking to the battle of Gettysburg, to Lincoln’s Address, and to Mr. Finnegan’s first Gettysburg Address.

Let the legacy continue!

Sincerely, Mr. Flohr (ret.

PS.  As you can see, I had my picture taken with Mr. Lincoln. Of course, I added another rock to my collection marked “GBA 11-19-13.”