Niagara Gazette — “Well, it’s been so long now
But it seems now, that it was only yesterday
Gee, ain’t it funny how time just slips away?”
— Willie Nelson, 1961
If you did not catch documentary filmmaker Ken Burns’ latest masterpiece, “The Address” on PBS last night, it will be well worth your time to look for the re-run, or to find it online as soon as possible. Better yet, to take his challenge to, “Learn the Address”; to read and try to memorize, and more importantly, to take to heart all 272 words that comprise what many call the most powerful two minute speech ever made, the Gettysburg Address whose words were never more meaningful than they are today.
The moving documentary is centered around the Greenwood School in Putney, Vt., which requires its students, all boys with learning difficulties, to memorize and then publicly recite the address.
Not surprisingly, the impact of the school’s lesson, and Burns’ challenge go well beyond the exercise; it should serve to remind us of how far we have come, and how far we have yet to go; the Civil War may have officially ended nearly 150 years ago, but the pervasive impact of the war and its deep rooted causes, especially racism, bigotry and cultural intolerance still reign high amongst us.
Many of Niagara’s finest served during the war, some as nurses, some as soldiers; some fought and died or were wounded on battlefields like Gettysburg and Manassas, both within eight hours of Niagara Falls, some of our own local heroes laid to rest right here at Oakwood Cemetery.
Meanwhile, preceding Gettysburg, hundreds, if not thousands of formerly enslaved men, women and children were forced to abandon the land of the free, home of the brave, and escape to Canada, some passing right through our back yards.