Eisenhower Speech at Gettysburg Overshadowed

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The Gettysburg Address

No sitting U.S. President has spoken at the Gettysburg anniversary since Abraham Lincoln gave his famous speech in 1863. Several sitting Presidents have visited Gettysburg at other times of the year, and former Presidents have attended commemorations on the day. In 1963, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, out of office just three years, attended the commemoration and gave a speech. That speech has largely been forgotten because three days later, the President at the time, John F. Kennedy, was killed.

Eisenhower gave a speech on Nov. 19, 1963, and so did Pennsylvania's then-Governor William Scranton. The Gettysburg newspaper printed the speeches in their entirety. Eisenhower's speech, which included the line "the unfinished work of which he spoke in 1863 is still unfinished; because of human frailty, it always will be," is preserved in the National Archives.

Kennedy had been to Gettysburg earlier in the year, in March. Vice-president Lyndon Johnson had spoken at Gettysburg on Memorial Day.

According to local newspaper reports, 11 sitting Presidents have visited Gettysburg while they were in office, for either Memorial Day or on a day close to the commemoration of the battle or the speech: Hayes, Theodore Roosevelt, Taft, Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt (twice), Truman, and Carter.

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