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WITH VIDEO: Local students participate in ‘Learn the Address’

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Luke Novak, left, and James Krall, freshmen in John Solberg’s civics class at Mitchell High School, recite a portion of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address on Monday. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic) 2 / 2

One class period was all it took for about 50 Mitchell High School students to collectively recite and videotape the Gettysburg Address.

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It is part of a nationwide effort to learn the brief speech. Locally, MHS social studies teachers Kent VanOverschelde and John Solberg are bringing awareness that today is the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address by then-President Abraham Lincoln.

“Without events like these, sometimes anniversaries like this can just slide by,” said VanOverschelde, an American government teacher.

Lincoln — the 16th president of the United States — delivered the address during the Civil War on Nov. 19, 1863.

Last week, documentarian Ken Burns called for Americans to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address with a public outreach campaign in conjunction with his new documentary, “The Address.”

Burns, an Academy Award-winning filmmaker, asked Americans to join President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton, comedians Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert and other notable figures in reciting the speech and posting it to the website

Students at Mitchell High School did just that.

Seniors in VanOverschelde’s American government class and freshmen in Solberg’s civics class worked on a project jointly as a part of a mentor/mentee program. The video, which can be viewed on the South Dakota section of the website, shows small groups of Mitchell students reciting lines from the address. It was one of only two videos posted from South Dakota as of Monday afternoon.

“Really, this could be considered one of, if not the greatest, political speeches of all time,” Solberg said. “The kids had a really good time working on this project. They had a blast.”

Burns’ initiative and documentary were inspired by boys with learning disabilities at a Vermont school who memorize and recite Lincoln’s address each year. Burns’ initiative runs through April 15, when his documentary airs on PBS stations nationwide.

VanOverschelde received an email from South Dakota Public Broadcasting about the initiative and thought it would be a good project. VanOverschelde said students were asked to memorize short pieces of the speech and not the entire thing. He said the project took 90 minutes to allow students to memorize their lines and be recorded reciting them.

“It was a fun activity for the class,” he said. “That’s part of the goal: To develop collaboration in activities that are unique and to bring awareness to the historical aspect of the speech, along with its anniversary.”

Read The Gettysburg Address here.