Thinking Inside the Box

Recite the Gettysburg Address with Us

by Ellis Bromberg, General Manager of MPTV


Hi, Ellis Bromberg, Thinking Inside the Box on Milwaukee Public Television and mptv.org.

I had a great experience recently -- standing in this very studio talking to this same camera, reciting the Gettysburg Address, the speech President Abraham Lincoln delivered on November 19, 1863, to dedicate the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Not only did I read the address -- which was a surprisingly powerful experience for me -- so did the mayor, the sheriff, the county executive, the police chief, some of our area's leading educators and sports figures, and MPTV on-air personalities, too. In a few weeks, you'll be able to see on-air and online how we all sound and look reading the Gettysburg Address.

So why did we do this? Well, THE ADDRESS, a 90-minute feature length documentary by Ken Burns, will air on Channel 10 and PBS, Tuesday night, April 15. That film tells the story of a tiny school in Vermont where each year students with learning disabilities memorize and recite the Gettysburg Address. For these young people, it is an empowering experience.

A few years ago, Burns was asked to judge the contest there. He was so impressed he decided to make a documentary about it. As a complement to the project, to encourage folks to watch the program, Burns also recorded a number of well-known individuals reciting the address, including President Obama, and every one of the living ex-presidents, famous actors and scholars, athletes and journalists. These videos are available right now at the website learntheaddress.org.

Well, we've now done the same thing at MPTV, and we're inviting you, our viewers, to participate, too! We have a special webpage and widget on mptv.org that will allow anyone to upload video of themselves reading the address. The tapes of all will be available on our website.

In addition, Milwaukee Area Technical College students are working with young people at Lincoln High School in Manitowoc which will result in additional segments featuring the reading of the address, and a half-hour program about the project that will air during our annual Student Operations Day in May on Channel 36.

THE ADDRESS project is consistent with work we do day-in and day-out at MPTV in education and citizenship. Public television is America's largest classroom and the center of lifelong learning for millions of Americans. And we're also committed to strengthening our society by providing tools of information to our viewers.

That's why MPTV produces public affairs programs like our weekly town hall meeting 4th STREET FORUM; why we air specials and series about local history and culture like AROUND THE CORNER WITH JOHN McGIVERN, BLACK NOUVEAU, and ADELANTE!; why we develop community partnerships to address issues of concern across southeastern Wisconsin. And why we have produced many award-winning programs about veterans and veterans' issues -- and let's not forget that the Gettysburg Address was a speech to dedicate a cemetery for the soldiers of the great Civil War.

So THE ADDRESS fits right in with our mission -- and we encourage you to join us and all the other famous and not-so-famous people here and around the country by uploading your recitation of the address to mptv.org. Thank you.