Ken Burns is making people read the Gettysburg Address and it’s actually awesome

Everyone from Stephen Colbert to Taylor Swift is trying their hand at Lincoln's most famous speech.


Justin Franz


Published Nov 13, 2013   Updated Jun 1, 2021, 2:02 am CDT

At just two minutes long, President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address may be one of the most famous speeches in American history. Now, famed filmmaker Ken Burns is marking its 150th anniversary with a new project encouraging Americans to record themselves uttering Lincoln’s most famous words.

The site, Learn the Address has launched just in time for the anniversary on Nov. 19 and features readings of the speech from celebrities and average citizens alike. Burns said he came up with the idea while working on his new documentary, The Address about a school for challenged boys that encourages its students to memorize and recite the speech every year.

“The idea that if they can do it we can all do it,” Burns said. “What if we all decided, from president to pulper, to learn the address, to be connected or reconnected to the most stirring words every spoken.”

Burns’s 90-minute documentary will air on PBS in the spring of 2014, but until then you can watch the nearly 80 videos people have recorded of themselves reciting the speech. Everyone from all four living presidents to Red Sox slugger Shane Victorino and Taylor Swift are included. If you’re just looking for the highlights, there is a mashup as well.

While some people, including Rachel Maddow, Louis C.K. and President Barack Obama took a more somber tone in their recitation of the speech, comedian Stephen Colbert, sporting a stovetop hat and fake beard, went all out in his.

Ironically, when Lincoln delivered the ten-sentence speech, he expected few to remember it; “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here,” he concluded.

Image via Learn the Address/YouTube

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*First Published: Nov 13, 2013, 2:23 pm CST