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State of the Debate
George Pyle
George Pyle has been a newspaper writer in Kansas, Utah, Upstate New York, and now Utah again, for more than 30 years - most of it as an editorial writer and columnist. Now on his second tour of duty on The Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board, he has also done a stretch as a talk radio host, published a book on the ongoing flaws of U.S.agricultural policy and, in 1998, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing. His most active bookmarks are Andrew Sullivan, Christopher Hitchens and Tina Brown. And he still thinks the Internet can be used for intelligent conversation and uplifting ideas.

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ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, NOV. 18, 2013 AND THEREAFTER - This 1905 artist's rendering from the Sherwood Lithograph Co. via the Library of Congress depicts President Abraham Lincoln speaking at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery on Nov. 19, 1863. The Gettysburg Address is unusual among great American speeches, in part because the occasion did not call for a great American speech. Lincoln was not giving an inaugural address, a commencement speech or remarks in the immediate aftermath of a shocking national tragedy. "No one was looking for him to make history," says the Pulitzer Prize winning Civil War historian James McPherson. (AP Photo/Sherwood Lithograph Co. via the Library of Congress)
Another newspaper’s second thoughts. The Gettysburg Address ...

"We pass over the silly remarks of the President. For the credit of the nation we are willing that the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over them and that they shall be no more repeated or thought of."

— Harrisburg Patriot & Union, Nov. 24, 1863

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About a month ago, you will surely recall, we on the Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board were moved to look up our endorsement editorial from the 2010 U.S. Senate race in Utah. We did that because we were intrigued by the news that our editorial brethren at The Houston Chronicle — in the midst of all the government shutdown unpleasantness — had uttered a great deal of regret over their past endorsement of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. It wasn’t a retraction, strictly, but came awfully close.

Turned out we didn’t have to retract, or even regret, our endorsement of Cruz’ partner in shutdown mayhem, Utah’s Sen. Mike Lee. Because we hadn’t endorsed him. We picked Democratic candidate, and now Salt Lake County Council Member, Sam Granato. And we don’t regret it one bit.

Today, an even larger, and more historically significant, move. Which is also an outright retraction.

Today’s Harrisburg (Penn.) Patriot-News offers a heartfelt apology for the fact that, seven score and 10 years ago this month, the editors of its ancestor publication, the Harrisburg Patriot & Union, had panned The Gettysburg Address.

Yes, that Gettysburg Address.

Retraction for our 1863 editorial calling Gettysburg Address ‘silly remarks’ | The Patriot-News

"... We write today in reconsideration of "The Gettysburg Address," delivered by then-President Abraham Lincoln in the midst of the greatest conflict seen on American soil. Our predecessors, perhaps under the influence of partisanship, or of strong drink, as was common in the profession at the time, called President Lincoln’s words "silly remarks," deserving "a veil of oblivion," apparently believing it an indifferent and altogether ordinary message, unremarkable in eloquence and uninspiring in its brevity.

"In the fullness of time, we have come to a different conclusion. ..."

Living on the wrong side of history? — Donald Gilliland |The Patriot-News

"... Just as the Gettysburg Address has become one of the most-read and most-quoted American political documents, the Patriot & Union "review" of it has become one of the most-quoted commentaries. ..."

We’d ask if anybody has a copy of the Nov. 24, 1863, edition of The Salt Lake Tribune. But it didn’t start until, as it says at the top of the front page, 1871. So, at least, we don’t have to worry about having made fools of ourselves on that score.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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