Monday evening, November 18, students from Gettysburg College got to sit down and discuss memory with Dr. David Blight from Yale University, author of the renowned work Race and Reunion. The session was conducted as an informal panel with Dr. Blight and Gettysburg College’s own Dr. Isherwood and Dr. Jordan. Dr. Blight spoke about beginning his work when memory studies was not an official field and stumbling his way headlong into working with the memory of the American Civil War. When discussing whether or not memory studies were a fad that would pass away, Blight reassured the audience that people have doing memory studies long before there was an official field. Memory is essential to who we are as human beings and all peoples and all nations construct their past in a way that is useable to their future.
November 19, 2013, marked a momentous day in the small Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg – the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The 272 worded speech given four months after the Battle of Gettysburg assigned meaning to the intense fighting and death that had besieged the nation for two years. With the war’s end nowhere in sight, Lincoln directed the American people on how to fathom the tragedy that surrounded them, both figuratively and literally, at the dedication of the National Cemetery in 1863. 150 years after this speech, thousands gathered to celebrate and commemorate those few appropriate remarks Lincoln made at a time when the nation’s future was tragically uncertain.