Great Speeches by Lincoln, Kennedy Focus of Faculty Panel

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

PHILADELPHIA (Nov. 6, 2013) — “Lincoln and Kennedy, from 1863 to 1963 to 2013: From Civil War to Civil Rights to the Meaning of America,” an all-SJU faculty panel discussion, will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and the 50th anniversary of John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s landmark Civil Rights Address. The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held on Thursday, Nov. 21, at 4 p.m., in the John Cardinal Foley Center on the James J. Maguire ’58 Campus.

“This panel centers on two vital and enduring speeches from two ennobled presidents,” says Saint Joseph’s President C. Kevin Gillespie, S.J. ’72. “Given that we will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address on Nov. 19, and observe the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy in the same week on Nov. 22, this event is a great teachable moment for our students.”

The interdisciplinary panel draws on faculty expertise from the Departments of History, Political Science, English, and Theology and Religious Studies, and includes:

  • Randall Miller, Ph.D., professor of history, who will set the respective historical perspectives of both speeches;
  • Francis Graham Lee, Ph.D., professor of political science, who will discuss the political import of both speeches;  
  • Melissa Goldthwaite, Ph.D., professor of English, who will consider each speech as a rhetorical event;
  • Katie Oxx, Ph.D., assistant professor of theology and religious studies, who will discuss the religious climate in America at the time of both speeches; and
  • Paul Aspan, Ph.D., associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (Humanities), who will moderate.

“Lincoln’s exhortation in the Address ‘…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom,’ and Kennedy’s observation in his speech, ‘One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free,’ highlight the concern of both men that freedom continue to be framed as the moral imperative of the American polity,” Fr. Gillespie adds.

Miller, a Civil War scholar, will read the Gettysburg Address, which was delivered in the midst of that war by President Lincoln on Nov. 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldier’s National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pa., established to honor the Union dead of the Battle of Gettysburg. President Kennedy’s Civil Rights Address, delivered on June 11, 1963, on television (CBS) and radio, responded to the U.S. National Guard being sent to protect two African American college students who wished to enroll in classes at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa after Gov. George Wallace blocked them from enrolling. The CBS footage of the speech will be streamed at the panel.

An open discussion with the audience and reception follow the panel. The event is part of the Dean’s Colloquium series of the College of Arts and Sciences and is also sponsored by the Office of the President and the Office of Mission and Identity.

Media Contact

Patricia Allen, Director of Communications/CAS, 610-660-3240,


As Philadelphia's Jesuit, Catholic University, founded by the Society of Jesus in 1851, Saint Joseph's University provides a rigorous, student-centered education rooted in the liberal arts. SJU ranks as a top university in the Northeast, with a Phi Beta Kappa chapter in the College of Arts and Sciences and AACSB accreditation of the  Erivan K. Haub School of Business. The University is also deeply committed to the Jesuit tradition of scholarship and service, earning a place on the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll and the community engagement classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. With courses offered on campus and online, SJU prepares its more than 8,000 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students to lead lives of personal excellence, professional success and engaged citizenship.


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