It salutes one of the greatest speeches of all time, which sought to unify a divided America in the name of freedom. It honors the passing on of patriotism from one generation to another. And it has been composed by an artist and entrepreneur who courageously served our country in the armed forces and has never lost sight of his priorities: family and country.
It’s Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address Illustrated, a beautifully-designed tribute to Lincoln’s speech at Gettysburg in November of 1863. And its author is Jack E. Levin, father of constitutional lawyer, radio host, and renowned author, Mark R. Levin.
Jack Levin’s life, as detailed in the preface by his son, is a testament to the spirit that made this country great. At the age of 16, he worked until midnight in a cigar factory after school. At 17, he changed the numbers on his birth certificate to try to avoid waiting until his 18th birthday to join the Army Air Corps. As an adult, he designed and ran Hawthorne Country Day School and Camp for children with his wife, building everything from the chairs to the toys, and helping to pick up and drive the kids home. In essence, he embodies the values and commitment we all think of when we hear the word American.
In the words of Jack Levin, “I created this book 45 years ago to remind people, especially young people, how precious our republic is. This might be a good time to remind them again.”
Aside from some improvements to the graphics via digital technology and other minor changes, the text appears as it did when first published in 1965. It is replete with meticulously-chosen images taken by photographers of the Civil War era, maps, drawings, and the Bliss version of Lincoln’s handwritten address. Each page features a segment of Lincoln’s speech and an image that complements its content, evoking a wealth of emotions with respect to that trying period in our history. It’s near impossible to sift through the text without feeling a great sense of American pride, sadness for lives lost, and a commitment to preserving our liberty.
Jack Levin closes his introduction with the following: “It is my hope that the stark realism of these pictures, with Lincoln’s words, will give readers a sense of intimacy with the events of which Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg.” I recently had the opportunity to speak with Mark Levin about his father’s text. Here’s what he had to say:
Question: Your father re-released his 1965 book, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address Illustrated, on May 4 Why do you think the Gettysburg Address stands out in history for him, and what do you think motivated him to re-release the text in May of 2010, amid our country’s current political climate?
Mark Levin: My dad loves this country. He was a young man during the Depression. He served his country during World War II. Along with my mother, he started his own small business—a nursery school and summer day camp. He worked very hard most of his life, under difficult conditions and for long hours. He knows from his own experience and from American history that this is a country where anyone can succeed because of the opportunities liberty makes available to everyone and anyone.
For him, the Battle of Gettysburg was a monumental event for this nation. It was the beginning of the end of the Confederacy. But it was also where tens of thousands of Americans from all walks of life put their lives on the line and fought with bravery and honor, knowing full well that it was likely they would be mortally wounded or horribly injured. There were 51,000 casualties in that one battle.
Lincoln’s comments were remarkable. In a speech that lasted less than two minutes, he was able to portray what had taken place on the battlefield by touching the heart and soul of the nation—not just for his generation, but generations to come. My dad believed 45 years ago as he believes today, that if more people read the speech and see the images, as displayed in his book, they will better appreciate what is and what has been.
Q: Your father’s artistic design of the text is quite unique and extraordinary. Can you explain what the original physical process entailed, in terms of image selection and lettering?
Levin: My dad spent days searching through archives in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, among other places, looking for just the right photographs or drawings to best depict what Lincoln was describing that day. And he spent days painstakingly rubbing each letter of each word of the speech on the pages of the book, since there were no computers or advanced technologies back then. He combined his knowledge of the battle and the speech with his artistic abilities.
Q: Something that immediately stood out for me upon reading the text was how powerful the images are, and how perfectly the book is suited for parents to share with their children. What is your take on that?
Levin: I agree. I was at a book signing last week where several thousand people showed up. And many of them brought their children and wanted me to thank my father for the book because they were using it to teach American patriotism, honor, and sacrifice. It was very touching and gratifying.
Q: In closing, what particular aspect of your father’s presentation of the Gettysburg Address do you find most inspiring and why?
Levin: Frankly, everything about my dad inspires me. His book is but one example. He has shown me throughout his life, mostly by example, the love, decency, and integrity a man should have for his family and country.
In closing, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address Illustrated provides an opportunity for parents and children to share in a part of our history that should never be forgotten. It reminds us of the great sacrifice of those who came before us, the power of a unified American spirit, and the priceless value of our freedom.