A solemn gentleman with a beard and a presidential top hat begins to recite some very famous words: “Fourscore and seven years ago…”
But it’s not Abraham Lincoln – it’s Will, a student at Perkins School for the Blind, who joined nine of his fellow students to deliver Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in its entirety. Their oration was captured on video, and is now online for people to enjoy as America prepares to commemorate the 153rd anniversary of that celebrated speech on November 19.
The video was created by Daniel Moskowitz, a teaching assistant in Perkins’ Secondary Program, who recruited students from teacher Michael McDonald’s history class.
“The students were excited (to participate),” McDonald said. “They were able to role-play as one of the most important figures in U.S. history and wear a top hat. What’s not to love?”
The students, all of whom are blind or visually impaired, use a variety of methods to deliver their lines. Some read from an off-camera braille document. Others memorized their sections. One nonverbal student hit “play” on an electronic device and a pre-recorded voice narrated Lincoln’s famous words.
In a nod to historic verisimilitude, several of the students wear a strap-on beard and a black top hat. However, the beard in the video is far more mobile than Lincoln’s actual beard was. At various times it’s on student’s chins, around their necks or resting on their chests like a wooly scarf.
While the students were obviously having fun delivering the speech, it was also an educational opportunity, McDonald said.
“I think reciting the address helped them appreciate that it was a speech, and not a statement meant to just be read,” he said. “I think they also appreciated the time it takes to properly practice and deliver an address that others will listen to.”
Moskowitz filmed each of the students reciting a phrase or sentence from the speech, and then edited the clips together into the finished video. Students appearing in the video are Will, Zach, Michael, William, Kaiden, Nicholas, Alex, Justin, Zach and Nicholas. Moskowitz also appears in the video, waving an American flag as he orates, as does McDonald.
The original Gettysburg Address was delivered by President Abraham Lincoln on November 19, 1863 – four and a half months after the Battle of Gettysburg. It is widely praised as one of the most eloquent and memorable speeches in American history.