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,


Founded in 1851 in the Jesuit tradition of academic excellence, Saint Joseph’s University is a top-ranked Catholic University that provides a rigorous, student-centered education. With a total enrollment of 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students, SJU offers a wide array of academic programs designed so that each graduate enters the world with a competitive resume and global perspective. This is achieved through intense academic study led by thought-leading faculty scholars, a comprehensive campus experience and robust study abroad, service-learning, internship and co-op programs. Upon graduation, nearly 100 percent of students are employed, pursuing advanced degrees or volunteering in prestigious service programs. A member of the Atlantic 10 Conference, SJU offers 20 Division I intercollegiate men’s and women’s sports. SJU alumni — over 68,000 strong — provide a powerful network that spans the globe.

Expand this section