Movie director Steven Spielberg talks with other dignitaries after laying a wreath at the Soldiers National Monument in Gettysburg. MORE PHOTOS
Movie director Steven Spielberg talks with other dignitaries after laying a wreath at the Soldiers National Monument in Gettysburg.
MORE PHOTOS (Bil Bowden)

Filmmaker Steven Spielberg said he was humbled as he stood on hallowed ground in Gettysburg.

Spielberg, who has three Academy Awards on his resume and the historical drama "Lincoln" in theaters, served as the keynote speaker during Dedication Day, marking the 149th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.

"I've never stood any place on earth where it's easier to be humble than here," Spielberg said. "Humble hardly covers it."

Standing where Lincoln stood seven score and nine years ago when he delivered the famous speech, Spielberg described the 16th president's words as "the most perfect prose poem ever penned by an American."

Lincoln's words changed the course of American history by changing how we understand ourselves and the whole point of American democracy, the filmmaker said.

It's that importance which inspired him to make "Lincoln," said Spielberg, confessing to the crowd he has been "keeping company with Lincoln's eloquent ghost" for the last 10 years.

"The murder of Abraham Lincoln, the loss of Lincoln, is heartbreaking. I wanted to bring Lincoln back from his sleep of one-and-a-half centuries, even if only for two-and-a-half hours, even if only in a cinematic dream," he said.

The cinematic dream he welded into a Civil War drama was largely based on "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln" by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize winning author and historian.

Kearns Goodwin shared brief remarks Monday and will return next year as the keynote speaker during Gettysburg's sesquicentennial celebration.

Lincoln's greatness was in the "moral fiber of his character and the integrity of his person," she said.

In the place where Lincoln shared his two-minute address, 16 people from 11 countries became U.S. citizens Monday during a naturalization ceremony in the middle of Dedication Day.

After they took their oath of allegiance, recorded remarks were shared by President Barack Obama, who urged them to use their freedom and talents to better the country.

"In America, no dream is impossible," he said.

According to a park ranger, more than 5,000 people gathered at the Soldiers' National Cemetery, waving small American flags and listening to music played by the Gettysburg High School Ceremonial Brass Band.

U.S. Rep. Todd Platts, R-York County, has attended Dedication Day events during each of his 12 years in office. He will retire Jan. 2.

"It's been a great privilege to represent a place with so much history, where the historic words of Abraham Lincoln were spoken, where many historians believe the union was saved," he said.

- Candy Woodall can also be reached at cwoodall@yorkdispatch.com.