Recollections of the Gettysburg Address and Kennedy’s Assassination in Public Diplomacy

This year marks noteworthy anniversaries for two very significant events in American history – the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. In honor of these occasions, Mr. Donald M. Bishop, President of the Public Diplomacy Council, wrote two short articles on US public diplomacy actions over the years related to these events.

The first article, which can be found here, discusses “Gettysburg Address Speech Contest,” an annual staple of programming in many countries, and how these contests effected foreign audiences to get to know and understand the concepts that President Lincoln conveyed on that day 150 years ago. These speech contests, held throughout the world for many decades up until as late as the late 1980’s influenced large groups of people worldwide. The Gettysburg Address Speech Contests helped spread American ideals throughout the world.

The second paper, linked here, talks about the US Information Agency’s (USIA) film “Years of Lightning, Day of Drums.” Made in the immediate aftermath of President Kennedy’s assassination, this film was said to have been USIA’s “most widely seen” film and how it presented the President Kennedy and the US in a positive light throughout the world. The “Years of Lightning” recall the achievements of the President and focuses on the six “faces” of Presidents Kennedy’s “new frontier.” As the film was made specifically for foreign audiences, it originally could not be seen in the U.S. However, in 1966, a special act of Congress allowed domestic screening. Today, the film can be seen on YouTube and a completely re-mastered Warner Home Video copy can be purchased.

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