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“Four score and seven years ago...”
Most Americans immediately recognize these lines as the famed opening of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, delivered 150 years ago on Nov. 19. Reciting the rest, however, is a challenge better left to 15-year-old Jamaica Plain native Ethan Pond and his peers at the Greenwood School, who know Lincoln’s every syllable by heart.
For decades, each of the nearly 50 students at the tiny Vermont boarding school for boys with learning differences has been required to memorize and perform the entire speech at an annual competition before they can graduate.
Greenwood’s unusual curriculum, which is centered around the character-building challenge, caught the eye of filmmaker Ken Burns, who accepted an invitation 10 years ago to help judge the students’ speeches, and has now completed a feature-length film on the school’s students and Lincoln’s speech set to air on PBS in April.