To mark the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg Address, acclaimed documentarian Ken Burns is leading a nationwide project called “Learn the Address“, which encourages Americans to record themselves reciting President Lincoln’s landmark speech. To set an example, a bunch of celebrities, politicians, and TV personalities participated. The video above strings together many of them, including clips of President Obama, Jimmy Carter, both Bush presidents, Bill Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Marco Rubio, Taylor Swift, Usher, Uma Thurman, Rachel Maddow, Bill O’Reilly, Steven Spielberg, and more. It’s a bipartisan affair because, hey, who doesn’t love Lincoln? (Almost everyone loves Lincoln.)
“This was a chance to do something in concert,” Burns tells Mother Jones. “Everybody yells and screams at each other all the time…But the respect for this speech brought everybody out.”
Burns’ related documentary, The Address, is set to premiere April 15 on PBS. The film examines the history and impact of the Gettysburg Address, while telling the story of the Greenwood School, a Vermont boarding school for boys with learning disabilities. Each year, students are encouraged to memorize and recite the Address. Burns has previously lent a hand in judging the school’s recitation program, and The Address is even narrated by Greenwood students.
“I was so moved by these young boys with their own learning difficulties and how hard they were working to learn, memorize, and publicly recite it—no small task,” Burns says. “I realized we had to challenged everybody to learn the Address.” According to Burns, everyone he and his team managed to contact was more than happy to help. It took them about a month and a half to curate their politically diverse, celeb-filled, video gallery.
The selection process for politicos and big names involved “hit-or-miss” brainstorming, and also Burns reaching out to some of his famous friends. “I’m a huge Uma Thurman fan, and she serves on the board of my wife’s nonprofit,” Burns says. “I’m a huge fan of [Taylor Swift], as are my daughters…I didn’t know her personally, but she instantly said yes when we asked.”
Other participants include Whoopi Goldberg:
and Alyssa Milano:
Check out more videos here.
In the coming weeks, Burns and his team will post to their website mash-ups of ordinary citizens reading and reciting the Address. You can submit you video here.
“I hope our site is broken by the number of people joining in,” Burns says.