NEWS

For Immediate Release                                                                                                               
February 6, 2009

Illinois gears up for simultaneous reading of Gettysburg Address; Aiming for new Guinness World Record


Simultaneous reading at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 12 part of Abraham Lincoln’s 200th Birthday celebration with Abe fans across the nation

Gettysburg Address Readying SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Education is joining with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum to encourage students across the state to participate in a nation-wide simultaneous reading of the Gettysburg Address at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 12 and help set a new Guinness World Record. The reading is part of a series of state and national events marking Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday.

 “This celebration of the life and legacy of our nation’s 16th President is a once in a lifetime opportunity,’’ said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “We hope that everyone in school on Feb. 12 will recite President Lincoln’s highly regarded speech. Students can always open books and learn, but this is an opportunity to experience – and perhaps make – history.” 

Lincoln’s Birthday is officially a school holiday, but schools can be in session that day. In fact, more than 93 percent of Illinois Schools have petitioned ISBE to hold classes on Feb. 12. 

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the record for most people reading aloud simultaneously is 223,363 participants. The February 12 reading will be broadcast live at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Museum and on its Web site. Teachers and school administrators can register for the reading at www.PresidentLincoln.org where they can also find the Gettysburg Address and other resources for the day, as well as forms that must be completed if that school wishes to become part of the world record attempt.  Schools may participate without taking part in the record attempt if they wish.  

In addition, public school students in grades 5 and 8 who are in class that day will receive a commemorative poster with the 271 words that President Lincoln so eloquently delivered in 1863 on the battlefield near Gettysburg. 

“Lincoln’s brief speech reminds Americans that the ideals of equality and freedom are the foundations of healthy democratic government,’’ said Illinois State Historian Thomas Schwartz. “A moving testament to the honored dead, the address is also a challenge to contemplate what the ultimate cause for their sacrifice was. Lincoln urges Americans to expand their understanding of American equality through a `new birth of freedom,’ for the former enslaved peoples.’’ 

 The February 12 Gettysburg Address reading, entitled the Four Score and Seven Project, is generously supported by JP Morgan Chase, MacArthur Foundation and The Chicago Community Trust, and administered by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation. 

“We know that teaching and learning become more effective when students are engaged and participating in what they’re studying,’’ said Superintendent Koch. “We hope that the activities of the day will whet the appetites of future historians.’’