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March 20th, 2014

Learning the Gettysburg Address

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Deborah Delgado recites the Gettysburg Address

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When documentarian Ken Burns asked Mayo Clinic CEO John Noseworthy, M.D., if Mayo Clinic would participate in his Learn the Address project, which encourages people (and organizations) across the country to record themselves reciting the Gettysburg Address, he may not have known the significance of the address in Mayo's history.

Mayo Clinic Heritage Hall Director Matt Dacy tells us that fifty-some years (or two-and-a-half-score and change) after Lincoln gave the address on the Gettysburg battlefield, Dr. Will Mayo quoted one of the speech’s most memorable and emotional lines while addressing the Minnesota State Legislature, on March 22, 1917. Dr. Will was at the capital to convince the politicians to vote against a bill that would have blocked Dr. Will and Dr. Charlie Mayo from creating their foundation (you may have heard of it) to support medical education and research. During his address, Dr. Will said:

“I have always thought a good deal of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. There is a line in it which explains why we want to do this thing. It is ‘that these dead shall not have died in vain.’ We know how hard it is for those who have the misfortune of deaths in their families, of deaths that might have been avoided. What better could we do than take young men and help them to become proficient in the profession as to prevent needless deaths?”

The Learn the Address project has drawn participants from across the country, including U.S. presidents (past and present), politicians, actors, musicians, and even news anchors. To promote the launch of the site this past fall, the site’s team created a Gettysburg Address mash-up of many of the high-profile participants.

In a note to Dr. Noseworthy, Burns mentioned the project hadn’t seen strong participation from "the sciences." Instead of simply recording the address alone, Dr. Noseworthy, with some help from Public Affairs, enlisted staff from across Mayo to recite the address for our own Mayo Clinic/Gettysburg Address mash-up. That video, as well as the individual videos of the participants, were submitted to the LearnTheAddress website earlier this month. And Mayo’s participation doesn’t have to stop here. All interested are encouraged to record and submit their own videos and submit them.

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