Students accept challenge to memorize Gettysburg Address

Published: Monday, Nov. 18 2013 4:13 p.m. MST

Peyton Light joins other classmates in Amy Phillips' second grade class at Sandy Elementary School in reciting the Gettysburg Address on Monday, Nov. 18, 2013.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SANDY — Kandyn Young, a second-grade student at Sandy Elementary School, didn't need his script.

When it was his turn, he calmly and confidently recited his portion of the Gettysburg Address.

"Or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure," he said.

It only took him one day to memorize the sentence, he said, but he admitted that some of the vocabulary was foreign to him.

"The 'indoor' starts with an 'e' instead of an 'i.' I don't know why," he said.

For the past week, Young and the rest of the Sandy Elementary Sharks have been learning the Gettysburg Address in honor of its 150-year anniversary on Tuesday. Sandy Elementary is one of several schools across the state participating in the GettyReady challenge — being able to memorize and recite all 272 words of the address — which was extended to Utahns in September by Gov. Gary Herbert.

The faculty at Sandy Elementary has incorporated the Gettysburg anniversary into the school's daily schedule, with historical facts being shared each morning during announcements and classroom discussions on President Abraham Lincoln.

"He's awesome," second-grader George Romero said of the 16th president. "He was the president and he wore a top hat."

The effort at Sandy Elementary is being headed up by Jeri Bankhead, who oversees data and technology at the school. She said she learned about the GettyReady challenge from an advertisement on television and brought it forward to the administration.

Bankhead said she would be quizzing students on their memorization of the address during the week, with prizes for those students who successfully recite the portion designated for their grade or the entire text.

She hopes the students come away from the challenge with a greater appreciation for history, but also an understanding of the address' message.

"We have a very diverse school (with) a lot of kids. I hope they feel that they are created equal here," she said. "It’s up to us. We’re the ones that have to move the idea of equality forward, not just our president but everybody."

Tami Pyfer, a member of the State School Board, said she has been listening to a recording of the address on her iPad and feels like she has a handle on the words.

"I took the challenge and it's a lot harder with my over-50-year-old brain to do," she said. "It has taken me about six weeks. I feel pretty comfortable reciting it now."

She has valued memorizing the address and thinks it is a great resource for students, particularly in the context of history and social studies classes. The Gettysburg Address teaches lessons, she said, that can be applied in many situations, from conflict resolution to perseverance and dedication.

"It teaches so much about being involved and working with others and coming through horrible times and resolving to be more 'dedicated to the great task that remains before us' as it says in the speech," she said.

Pyfer has been impressed by how many schools have accepted the GettyReady challenge. In Cache Valley, the area of the state Pyfer represents on the State School Board, more than 100 students from various schools gathered to recite the address during halftime of the Utah State University basketball game last week.

She said she appreciates the way Lincoln's remarks at Gettysburg referenced the past and future of the United States. The address teaches a lesson that history is not a series of random events but is instead connected.

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