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Steven Spielberg highlights Gettysburg’s Dedication Day Monday

Joseph Cress,  The Sentinel, Carlisle, Pa. –

When Steven Spielberg takes the rostrum Monday in Gettysburg, his appearance will be a test run for an even larger production planned for November 2013.

The Academy Award-winning director will be the keynote speaker at the annual Dedication Day ceremony marking the 149th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

The ceremony will begin at 9:30 a.m. Monday with a wreath laying at the Soldiers’ National Monument followed by the main program at 10 a.m. at the newly restored rostrum in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery.

News of Spielberg’s upcoming visit has generated more interest than usual in a ceremony that typically draws about 2,000 people to the cemetery, said Katie Lawhon, spokesperson for the Gettysburg National Military Park.

“We’re anticipating a bigger crowd,” she added. “We recommend people arrive early and bring a folding chair.”

Lawhon explained that, as the organizer of the ceremony, the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania invites a keynote speaker to comment on the significance of the Gettysburg Address.

“His interest in telling the story of Lincoln is the reason why the fellowship invited him to be the speaker,” Lawhon said of Spielberg. His latest film, “Lincoln,” stars Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role and was released nationwide Friday.

While no portion of the movie was filmed at either the park or the cemetery, Spielberg visited Gettysburg while he was doing research, Lawhon said. She added that his celebrity status is bound to draw a bigger crowd and more media attention to the annual Dedication Day one year before the 150th anniversary.

“We’re considering it a test run for next year,” Lawhon said.

The nation currently is in the midst of the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War. The Battle of Gettysburg took place July 1-3, 1863. As such, Adams County and Gettysburg Borough are gearing up for a major influx of tourists coming to the area inext year to commemorate this milestone anniversary.

Part of the preparation work included the restoration of the rostrum in the cemetery, Lawhon said. An elevated platform with a trellis, the rostrum dates from the 1870s so it was not present when Lincoln gave his famous address on Nov. 19, 1863.

Aside from Spielberg, the Dedication Day ceremony on Monday will feature a reading of the Gettysburg Address by Lincoln reenactor James Getty. In addition, the Oath of Allegiance will be administered to 16 citizenship candidates by Tony Bryson, Philadelphia District Director for the U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Services.

Past Dedication Day keynote speakers include Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Court Justices William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O’Connor, Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, Gen. Colin Powell, journalists Sam Donaldson and Tom Brokaw and Ken Burns, director and producer of “The Civil War” public television documentary series.

The Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania sponsors Dedication Day with the Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg College and the Gettysburg Foundation.

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