Numerous groups and individuals lay wreaths at the base of this impressive monument every anniversary. In the program booklet for the event, Spielberg was denoted as representing the People of the United States during the wreath laying.
Spielberg was introduced by Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer, who listed the filmmaker's long list of cinematic accomplishments. Spielberg described how he wanted to humanize the 16th president in a way no other director had done. He said, "The murder of Abraham Lincoln, the loss of Lincoln, is heartbreaking. I wanted to bring Lincoln back from his sleep of one-and-a-half centuries, even if only for two-and-a-half hours, even if only in a cinematic dream."
Here is Spielberg's speech in its entirety--courtesy of documentarian Jake Boritt.
Of course, Spielberg used the expertise of actor Daniel Day-Lewis to revive this sleeping giant. He also stated that if and when he wishes to get in touch with his inner-Lincoln, he has Day-Lewis on speed dial to accommodate this desire. The director noted that it was the power of dreams that motivated Lincoln, compelled Spielberg himself to make the movie, and inspires Americans to better their nation.
Following his address, Gettysburg Foundation president Joanne Hanley and Gettysburg National Military Park superintendent Bob Kirby presented Spielberg with a vibrant portrait of the 16th president by noted Lincoln artist Wendy Allen. Nice, huh?
But perhaps the most compelling aspect of every Dedication Day remembrance is the naturalization ceremony which converts qualified foreign immigrants into United States citizens. What better place to do this than Gettysburg? Above, immigrants from a dozen different countries raise their right hands as they take the oath of citizenship. I spoke with novelist Jeff Shaara later that afternoon, who was sitting nearby. Every single inductee was crying as were citing their oaths, he said. This special moment in their lives will create a bond to this unique place that will hopefully live on through their families and descendants. For these new citizens, Gettysburg marks a "rebirth" in more ways than one.
Following the oath, everybody in the crowd and on stage stood up and waved the American flag in celebration of this milestone. This was the moment of the loudest applause from the thousands present. You can guess why.
Almost on cue, the skies opened up and the sun emerged in the clear southern sky. I captured this photo of Old Glory as the VIP guests departed from the historic brick rostrum built in the early years of the cemetery.