GETTYSBURG, Pa. — Director Steven Spielberg expressed a sense of humility Monday as he delivered the keynote address during ceremonies to mark the 149th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s ‘‘Gettysburg Address.’’
‘‘I’ve never stood anyplace on earth where it’s easier to be humbled than here,’’ said Spielberg, whose biopic about the 16th president is currently in theaters.
His remarks were made at the annual event at the Soldiers National Cemetery in Gettysburg, near the site where Lincoln gave the famous oration amid the American Civil War in 1863, four months after the battle in which the Union turned back an invasion of the North by Confederate troops under General Robert E. Lee.
About 9,000 people attended the ceremony, which included a reenactment of the speech. As part of the event, 16 new Americans from 11 different countries took the oath of allegiance to become US citizens.
Spielberg, who spent seven years working on his new movie ‘‘Lincoln,’’ said that the president came to feel like one of his oldest and dearest friends during the process, and that he sensed he was living in the presence of what he called Lincoln’s ‘‘eloquent ghost.’’
‘‘Lincoln wanted us to understand that equality was a small ‘D’ democratic essential,’’ Spielberg said, describing Lincoln’s three-minute speech as ‘‘his best and truest voice’’ and the single ‘‘most perfect prose poem ever penned by an American.’’
Carl Sandberg, in his biography of Lincoln, described it as a speech about how democracy is worth fighting for.
Spielberg spoke Monday of the interplay between history and memory, and between memory and justice.
‘‘It’s the hunger we feel for coherence, it’s the hunger we feel for progress for a better world,’’ he said.
‘‘I think justice and memory are inseparable.’’
The crowd gave him a standing ovation.