Friday, February 27, 2009

Six score and nineteen years ago

One hundred and thirty nine years ago today Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the most important speeches of his life – one which Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer and others believe propelled Lincoln from the prairies of Illinois onto the path to the White House.

For an overview and the speech itself, see the Abraham Lincoln Online website. But, if you really want to know all about it, you’ll want to read Holzer’s book, Lincoln at Cooper Union: The Speech That Made Abraham Lincoln President.

With more than 30 volumes about Lincoln under his belt, Holzer knows his stuff. When the book came out, it put this speech into the spotlight it's so long deserved. Holzer’s work will continue to shed light on this turning point in Lincoln’s life for years to come.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A smattering of Lincoln news

Will Governor Quinn open historic sites?
Yesterday afternoon my friends at The State Journal-Register published breaking news that Illinois Governor Pat Quinn will have an announcement today about our state parks – good news, they say. We’re hoping they’ll reopen – and wishing, too, that the good news extends to our closed historic sites. Keep your fingers crossed.

Governor Quinn, here’s hoping your news is what we want to hear…

My fav artists and their Lincolns

During the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial activities in Springfield, I met a new favorite Lincoln artist – Sacha Newley. This pleasant, unassuming, grateful young man has become as addicted to Lincoln as many of the rest of us Lincoln buffs. He’s just about as enamored with Springfield and can’t wait until he gets invited back again.

Newley did a portrait of Lincoln for Lincoln College. This image was also used in one of the Bicentennial commemorative envelope designs. As in Newley’s other portraits, the image captures you and draws you in, showing tremendous depth of his subject. I was a Newley fan as soon as I met him because of his personality, and he had me for good once I saw his work. What incredible talent!

Newley, by the way, is the son of actress Joan Collins and late actor Anthony Newley.

Even before I met Newley, though, I had another favorite Lincoln artist. He’s not the son of celebrities, nor does he have a British accent and curly dark locks. But he’s got an incredible gift for portraiture and he’s a heck of a nice guy. My friend and co-worker, Craig Conroy, uses his talents to create images of famous people as gifts for friends and family.

One of my teammates at work saw a Lincoln image on Conroy’s desk a couple months ago and told him I liked Lincoln. I came back from my California trip in January to find the Lincoln print on my desk. Conroy’s image appears to capture an older Lincoln, likely as the war was progressing, and shows the dark eyes and worry lines which overtook the Lincoln image as time wore on. I cherish Conroy’s gift and display it prominently on my desk.

Now people worldwide can enjoy Conroy’s image, too. He submitted it to the Illinois Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission for the Lincoln Images section of their website. They posted it this week, and Conroy's work now resides alongside several other amazing Lincoln works. Be sure to check it out. I think you’ll appreciate Conroy's detail and his talent, too. Congratulations, Craig. I’m proud of you.

Follow Lincoln Buff 2
Don’t forget. If you like Lincoln Buff 2 blog, you can “follow.” Just sign up from the link in the left hand navigation. Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Visit these Lincoln blogs and websites

Lincoln Buff 2 is on a bit of a hiatus from blogging this week, as I’m spending precious time with my family while my youngest daughter is here visiting. There is always something new in the Lincoln world, though, and there are others who love sharing Lincoln news. Here are a few of my favorites.

Lincoln bloggers
Here are some other Lincoln bloggers I enjoy reading:

Lincoln websites
I’ve learned so much and met so many people who are committed to keeping the legacy of Lincoln alive, often working diligently day in and day out for nothing but the satisfaction of doing so. The following websites provide a wealth of information about the 16th President:

Please continue to visit Lincoln Buff 2, though. I'm always scouting for new things to share about Lincoln, and these days there's an avalanche of stories to be told. I'll keep telling them whenever I can.

Monday, February 23, 2009

You can now "follow" my blog

Just yesterday a reader commented that he couldn't find a way to sign up for my blog. I realized that I didn't have an option for folks to "follow" my blog. Now you can.

If you'd like, you may sign up in the Followers section in the left-hand navigation just below the list of Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial websites.

No blog post today - spending time with my daughters as we celebrate my oldest's birthday. I won't say how old she is, as it will make us both feel ancient!

Happy birthday, Michelle!

I love you,

Sunday, February 22, 2009

One inspiration reflects on another

It never ceases to amaze me how our paths in life sometimes intersect with just the right people to help us uncover our true passions and propel us toward our dreams.

Island holds hidden treasure
I found one of these people on a late afternoon in the early 1990s in a classroom on Arsenal Island in the middle of the Mississippi River. John E. Hallwas, a Western Illinois University professor, regional historian and prolific author, was teaching a course on the literature of Illinois. I knew by the end of that first class period that this course and the instructor were going to leave indelible marks and help forge a new path in my life.

I’d always had an interest in regional history and I truly can’t remember a time when I wasn’t mesmerized by the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln. Hallwas’s class was going to provide the backdrop I needed to better understand the state which I call home and, as the semester evolved, was to expose me to the literary eloquence of the sixteenth president and the work of authors who wrote of him.

The course and the professor’s encouragement were to lead me down a winding path which continued out of the classroom, through writers’ workshops, onto the pages of Illinois newspapers, into the mediums of corporate communications and out into the world of Lincoln as an enthusiast, lifelong learner and blogger.

Hallwas is now retired from the classroom, but he’s digging deeper than ever into the people and forces that helped to create the Prairie State we know now. When he’s not holed up in some archive or working at home on one of his latest books, you’ll find him traveling from one end of the state to the other, giving talks about Illinois history or his books. From time to time, he steps back to one of his earlier side jobs, providing thought-provoking columns for newspapers in the region.

Hallwas on Lincoln
In that last role, Hallwas recently wrote a series of four articles beginning with Obama’s inauguration and ending on Lincoln’s birthday. The articles cover how Lincoln’s shadow is felt in Illinois and the nation today, the importance of his legacy as a writer, his spiritual journey and why studying Lincoln continues to have value.

I found his columns in the online Lake County Journals:
I’ve taken enough of Hallwas’s courses and read enough of his work to know some of the common themes he would cover in these articles, yet even after more than a decade and a half of exposure to his work, I always take away a new perspective and a greater appreciate for the subject at hand, thanks to his insightful coverage and well-developed narrative.

Hallwas was a big proponent of his students reading their work aloud, so I wasn’t surprised to see him share how it helped mold Lincoln the writer:

Through exposure to such noted books, frequent reading aloud, much effort at writing, and eventual practice at speaking, he gradually developed a feeling for the rhythms of language and a talent for precise word choice. He even wrote a few poems.

One of the things I’ve always liked about reading Hallwas is that he can get his point across and show his authority on a subject without resorting to a bunch of fancy-scmanchy big words and convoluted intellectual discourse. He shared how Lincoln touched his listeners with this same skill:

His years of study and work as a lawyer, starting in 1837, also helped to make him a very capable writer and speaker. In court, he repeatedly used reason (for which he had enormous regard) and plain language (which anyone could understand). His spoken and written comments were never artificially literary but always direct and forceful.

Finding more inspiration
Hallwas’s final article, on why the study of Lincoln is still important, talks about the specific value of several new works or works of recent years. Not surprisingly, some of the authors and works who have captured my attention, inspired me and earned my devotion also got good marks in my mentor’s grade book.

I’m currently reading Daniel Mark Epstein’s The Lincolns: Portrait of a Marriage. Hallwas wrote that Epstein’s book, “…showing how time and adversity can change people, would be a more fascinating read for most book clubs than Doris Kearns Goodwin’s fine book on Lincoln’s cabinet.”

Epstein drew me in and held me tight in the opening pages. I’ve had to set the book aside for a while due to the bicentennial events and other obligations, but you’ll hear why I agree when I’m done reading it. What Hallwas didn’t know when he wrote this is that Epstein is also an engaging speaker and quite personable. I got to hear him and meet him in Springfield. Epstein truly does seem to appreciate his readers as much as they appreciate his work.

As I began my studies of Lincoln, there were others who inspired me – through lectures, answers to my questions or taking time out of their busy schedules to visit with me. Hallwas, too, found value in the work of the following Lincoln scholars who have touched my life.

David Herbert Donald was one of the three-generation panel who gave me advice when the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum opened in 2005. Douglas Wilson of Knox College, in my hometown of Galesburg, has been there for me whenever I’ve needed the answer to a Lincoln question. Though I didn’t get a chance to meet him, Eric Foner’s speech at the Lincoln Bicentennial celebration in Springfield provided a great springboard for my bicentennial week activities. And, when I wanted to learn more about his attraction to Lincoln, Richard Cawardine, the British Lincoln scholar, spent equal time asking me about my own Lincoln interests and providing encouragement.

The life and legacy of Lincoln are an inspiration – to scholars like these, to those who've followed in Lincoln's professions, to politicians like our new President, Barack Obama,and to youngsters of the last couple centuries. Yet, after Hallwas wrote of American’s fascination with Lincoln, he closed his series with the same question I’ve long had.

A more important question for us all, I think, is why some Americans can go through their lives unfascinated by Lincoln, unwilling to read about him, and thus uninfluenced by our most complex and astounding public figure.

Who inspires you?
If you’re reading this blog, you’ve likely been inspired in life by the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln. If you’re really lucky, you’ve also been inspired and mentored by someone like John Hallwas. In that case, you’ve been truly blessed.

My Hero essay/artwork contest deadline: March 1
Do you have a hero in your life who represents Abraham Lincoln’s heroic qualities? If so, don’t miss out on the chance to share the story and win a trip to the Land of Lincoln. The deadline for My hero essay contest is March 1, 2009. Not a writer? That doesn’t matter. You can also enter with a work of art. See the website for further details.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Coming this weekend – another Virtual Book Signing

One of the highlights of my bicentennial pilgrimage to Springfield was having the opportunity to meet Lincoln scholars and experts I’ve covered in my blog. The first Lincoln author/expert I ran into on Sunday, Feb. 8 was Daniel Weinberg of the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop in Chicago.

Weinberg and I had exchanged emails a time or two and I’d promoted some of his Virtual Book Signings in my blog, but we’d never met. He was just as pleasant in person as he had been by email and seemed in the online book signings. This man just has an aura about him that puts his interviewees at ease and elicits some powerful discussion.

You’ll get a change to see Weinberg at work this weekend and again in early March if you tune in to his next two Virtual Book Signings.

David Leroy on Feb. 21
Be sure to log on to your computer at 12 noon Central Time on Saturday, Feb. 21, 2009, as Weinberg interviews David Leroy, Idaho Lincoln Bicentennial Commission chair and chairman of the Governors Council of the United States Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. Leroy will be speaking about his book, Mr. Lincoln’s Book: Publishing the Lincoln-Douglas Debates.

Remember, you can order your book for this and other Virtual Book Signings ahead of time through the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop BookBlast page.

Unfortunately, Mr. Leroy is one Lincoln buff I haven’t yet met. I remember reading about him last year in an online news story about the Lincoln Forum symposium at Gettysburg. I’m planning to attend this year, so I hope meet him there. In the meantime, we can all meet him in cyberspace, thanks to Weinberg’s book event.

Michael Burlingame on March 5
On Thursday evening, March 5 at 6 p.m. Central Time, join Weinberg and Michael Burlingame, as Burlingame talks about the most grandiose Lincoln biography since Sandburg finished his six-volume Lincoln bio 70 years ago.

I had the pleasure of meeting Burlingame, author of the two-volume Abraham Lincoln: A Life, at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library last week. I later watched as he moderated a panel for the Abraham Lincoln Association’s Lincoln Roundtable. I also got to hear him speak at a luncheon and at the Abraham Lincoln Association banquet. Burlingame’s good nature and wit make him a pleasant conversationalist and an engaging speaker.

You won’t want to miss this event, either. If you do, though, be sure to check back on the Virtual Book Signing website later, as the book signings are archived so they can be watched again and again.

If you missed White and Clinton
How did you spend your Valentine’s Day? Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln spent their day together on Virtual Book Signing. Okay, they didn’t, but the authors of books about each of them did.

Ronald C. White, Jr., author of A. Lincoln: A Biography, and Catherine Clinton, who wrote Mrs. Lincoln: A Life, teamed up on Feb. 14 to talk with Weinberg about one of the most misunderstood marriages in the history of our country. Just last week, I heard one writer speak of the strength of the Lincoln marriage and another speak of its misery. No one really knows what the marriage was like, of course, but the couple themselves, and they’re not here to tell us.

I’m sure you’ll gain some new insight into the individuals and into their marriage if you watch the archived interview when it’s available on Virtual Book Signing. When this article was written it wasn’t yet ready, but keep checking back. They should have it out there before long.

I had the opportunity to meet White in 2005 at the opening symposium of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum when my Lincoln buff buddy, Karen Needles, who has done research for White, introduced us. She spoke very highly of him and of his work.

Clinton was at that event too, but we didn't really get to meet until this year. Her inquisitive nature and tenacity inspire me. I'll be reviewing her book in the coming months, so be sure to watch for it here.

Be in the know
Afraid you’ll miss out on future Virtual Book Signings? You won't have to if you sign up for the free email mailing list. I joined a few months ago and it’s a great way to keep in the know on who’s on first, what’s on second and I don’t know’s on third in the world of Lincoln literature.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lincoln Bicentennial week – the rest of the story

Who would have thought that chronicling a week of Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial activities would take a week and a half? Living them was easy, recovering from them was a bit more difficult and writing about them has taken more time than I’d expected. There is so much to share.

Over the past few days, I’ve shared highlights of all the activities I attended in Springfield through Friday afternoon, Feb. 13. Now, let’s travel back to Bloomington for the one McLean County Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission event I was able to attend, then return to Springfield to cap off the week.

Lincoln’s in Town
Friday night was the premiere of the play, Lincoln’s in Town, written by Illinois history and literature guru Robert Bray of Illinois Wesleyan University and McLean County playwright and writer, Nancy Steele Brokaw. I expected nothing but historical accuracy from Bray and he certainly delivered. From Brokaw, I expected the same mystical magic we see in the Holiday Spectacular each year – a story seen through the eyes of a child, but captured with the insight of a sage. Brokaw nailed it.

Lest the play be performed again sometime in the future (and I hope it is), I won’t spoil the plot. Let it suffice to say that a little boy and his grandpa recollect a plethora of stories about Lincoln and his time in McLean County. They leave no significant stone unturned nor crucial character out of the script.

The play was well worth the trip back to Bloomington and a fitting end to the adult portion of my Lincoln vacation. The script was entertaining and educational, the venue pleasant and the acting top-notch. What more can I say - other than that it also gave me some much-needed quiet time to relax, reflect and recharge for my final bicentennial trip to Springfield the following day.

Take two
I left my home early on Saturday morning to get my favorite side street parking place near Lincoln’s Home. My grandchildren and I got there a half-hour before the performance of "Emancipation Proclamation: From Slavery to the White House." I think the kids were as mesmerized by the production as I had been the day before. I’m not sure the younger ones understood the issues Lincoln, Douglass, Tubman and King discussed, but it was evident the trouble in Douglass’s voice and the power in King’s speech left an impression on them. The teenager told me he understood the concerns at stake, and the young ones agree they’ll always remember the day. The littlest particularly enjoyed horsing around afterward with Frederick Douglass (my friend Michael Crutcher), who stepped out of the stern abolitionist role for a moment and into the playful role of an uncle or grandpa.

Mr. Lincoln slept here
From the production, we found a sandwich shop within walking distance of the Lincoln’s Home area, grabbed a quick lunch and headed back to try to take in a Lincoln's Home tour before the afternoon concert. We were in luck. The kids enjoyed their first visit to the home where Lincoln wrestled and played with his youngsters and were in awe knowing they’d walked through the same doors and walked upon the same floors as the great emancipator. But, as it is for most visitors to the home, the true novelty to my young brood was the three-hole outhouse out back – and the realization that was a long way out there at night in the middle of the winter.

Abraham Lincoln in Song
On the trip down I’d set the stage for my travelling companions by playing the CD of Chris Vallillo’s Abraham Lincoln in Song. Once again, we made sure to be there in plenty of time to get seats front and center, and it was as if we had our very own performance. Vallillo was joined by percussionist Rocky Maffit, who put on his own unique exhibition of rhythmical talent. I’ll share more about their performance another time, but will share now that I caught the teen the next day beating out the rhythm to one of the songs and the youngest can’t stop playing the CD and singing along at the top of his lungs. Vallillo and Maffit hit the mark with this gang.

What’s a souvenir?
Souvenir means many things to many people, and there’s a smart man in a little souvenir shop in Lincoln’s neighborhood who knows just that. On Friday afternoon, I ventured into Mr. Lincoln’s Souvenir and Gift Shop, just for a look see, so I could savor the flavor of the place and write about it for a future column. I still want to do that.

For now, however, let me share that this spotless basement shop where my grandkids and I returned to end our Lincoln Bicentennial adventure was the perfect end to an even more perfect week. The shop has a little something for everyone – some of the cheesy little things you’d expect to find in a “souvenir” shop and some really classy pieces you wouldn’t be afraid to display on the mantle in your front parlor. Each of the children found something unique to capture the magic of the day.

And, this grandma walked up the stairs with a precious Bicentennial souvenir of her own – the memory of time spent together spreading her enthusiasm about all things Lincoln to the generation who will pass this enthusiasm on to their own grandchildren. As she did, she hoped her grandchildren’s grandchildren would bring their own young grandchildren to Springfield for the tri-centennial of Lincoln’s birth.

Happy bicentennial, President Lincoln!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Can't get 'nuff o' that Lincoln

Over the last few days, I've told you about most of my week celebrating the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial in Springfield (Ill.), right up through the Lincoln Bicentennial birthday party, complete with the presidential visit. My Lincoln celebration in Springfield didn't end there, though.

I was up early Friday, Feb. 13 to blog, check out of the hotel and start a busy day of events - nearly all with an Abe.

Lincoln and Leadership
I started my morning attending an event sponsored by the National Park Service and Lincoln's Home. At "Lincoln and Leadership." we received a copy of Don Phillip's book, Lincoln on Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times. Phillips presented first. I was inspired by and learned from him.

After a short break, Lincoln (Fritz Klein) shared his thoughts on leadership. This was the first time Phillips and Klein had worked together and, as I told both of them, they need to take this show on the road. It would be great for businesses, non-profits and in the classroom. Both have so much to offer and share it so well. Their presentations meshed beautifully.

Lincoln pilgrimage from the land down under
I met many very nice people throughout the week, and even some who were as enthusiastic about Lincoln as I am, but none who had come further than two separate individuals from Australia - a woman and a man who did not know each other and who lived nearly 2,000 miles apart. Though I met the woman only briefly when she picked up her ticket for the Lincoln banquet on Thursday night, my path kept crossing with that of my male Australian friend. I wanted to learn more about him and his passion for Lincoln, so we met for lunch at a quaint little Springfield restaurant near the Old State Capitol, Robbie's. Good food and nice company, combined with the knowledge that my week was drawing to a close, made the get-together bittersweet. When you're a Lincoln buff, it's hard to leave Springfield, whether you've come from an hour away or across the seas.

From Harriet to Dr. King
I had one last event to attend in Springfield on Friday, then it would be back to Bloomington for an evening event, which was part of the McLean County Lincoln Bicentennial celebration. The afternoon event, held in a quaint downtown Springfield church, was called, "Emancipation Proclamation: From Slavery to the White House." It featured Lincoln (Fritz Klein again), Frederick Douglass (Michael E. Crutcher, Jr.), Harriet Tubman (Kathryn Harris), Martin Luther King, Jr. (Jimmie Lucas) and narrator Kyle Westerbrook.

The performance crossed time - and took the audience back as well. All the actors were phenomenal. I'd seen Klein several times before, but was looking forward to seeing my friends Crutcher and Harris in their roles. None of them disappointed me, and Lucas? His "I have a dream" speech brought tears to my eyes and gave me goosebumps.

In my next post, I'll tell you about the great Lincoln play in Bloomington and my trip back to Springfield with the grandkids on Saturday. Until then, keep looking for Lincoln... Ann

Monday, February 16, 2009

My Lincoln’s birthday adventure – Part Two

Okay, I’m back. I think my bicentennial week is catching up with me. I went non-stop from dawn to midnight nearly every day for a week. As one of my new Lincoln friends, who travelled much farther than I did, said, “I’m decompressing…”

I still need to tell you about the last two-and-a-half days of the bicentennial celebration, though, so I’d best get the fingers to begin again their keyboard dance.

When I ended my earlier blog post about the festivities of Friday, Feb. 12, 2009 – Lincoln’s 200th birthday – I’d just left the Abraham Lincoln Association Roundtable. So, let's continue the adventure.

Off to the Michael Burlingame luncheon

My next event was the Bicentennial Lunch at the President Abraham Lincoln Hotel featuring Michael Burlingame as the speaker. I slipped out of the Roundtable a bit early so I would make sure to find the hotel on time. On the way over, I ran into John Allen of Lincoln Land Community College as he waited on a corner for some of his guests. Allen is involved with the Elderhostel, which has more Springfield Lincoln events on its agenda yet this year. The folks on this one seemed to be having a great time.

Once at the luncheon, I picked an empty table, hoping some interesting guests would join me. I wasn’t disappointed. The first to sit down were a couple from Virginia, who were thankful for the kindness of a Springfield resident. Due to high winds in Chicago that day, it appeared they weren’t going to make it down until late in the day, and would miss the lunch. With true Midwestern hospitality, however, they met someone from Springfield at the airport. He offered to drive them to the capital so they were able to join in the meal and hear Burlingame, too.

We were next joined by a couple from Chicago. It was no surprise that either of the couples were there, as one in each couple was, like Lincoln, an attorney. The next guests to join us were a woman across the table, who I didn’t get a chance to meet and one of the children’s authors, Bob Burleigh. I was excited to have the opportunity to visit with Burleigh and to hear more about his journey as a writer and his writing process. He’s a second career author, coming to children’s literature through an earlier career making educational filmstrips. His journey gives me hope that mine may someday lead to a book of my own.

Burleigh’s book, Abraham Lincoln Comes Home, illustrated by Wendell Minor, is about a boy and his father waiting for Lincoln’s funeral train to pass. I think Burleigh and one of my other Lincoln friends, Chris Vallillo, would have a lot in common, as Vallillo’s musical tribute, Abraham Lincoln in Song, includes a song titled, “Lincoln’s Funeral Train.”

Burlingame’s talk was great – easy for Lincoln buffs to follow, but with enough substance for the scholars in the bunch. He’s also got a pretty cool sense of humor, so it’s great fun to hear him talk.

Getting ready for the really big event

There were several scholarly events on Thursday afternoon, held various places and featuring multiple scholars at each one. I’d originally hoped to attend at least a couple, but with President Barack Obama coming, all that changed.

It was going to be a real challenge to get to the Crowne Plaza, find parking and get inside in time to help distribute tickets for the Abraham Lincoln Association’s Lincoln’s 200th Birthday Banquet, featuring the President and Michael Burlingame. So, I high-tailed it back to my hotel, changed into my banquet attire and headed to the Crowne Plaza. The parking lot was full, so the police officers directed me across the street. I was surely a funny sight trying to cross four lanes of traffic in an evening gown and high heels – and hoping I got across quickly enough to avoid being hit by a passing car or semi.

The wait begins

I was at the hotel by shortly after 2 p.m., but didn’t need to start helping pass out tickets until much later. The time flew, though, as I watched people come and go. An Illinois surveyors’ organization was about to end their convention in the hotel, as people were starting to arrive for the banquet. I thought it was pretty neat that another of Lincoln’s professions was represented in Springfield on his 200th birthday.

I won’t bore you with all the nitty gritty of taking care of last minute details in the banquet room or of ticket distribution or security rigmarole. Let it suffice to say that a Presidential visit is a big thing, and you’ve likely never seen so many law enforcement and Secret Service folks in your life. We were all glad to get past that and to make it to our tables, though I must say, greeting people and waiting on them in the ticket line reminded me how much I miss working with the public – either in a checklane or in a volunteer effort.

The really big deal
To me, the entire Bicentennial week was a dream come true, with one exciting experience after another. But, the banquet topped it all because:

  • Hearing “Hail to the Chief” and standing as the President of the United States enters the room is something you just can’t understand until you’ve lived it.

  • Getting to meet another tall good-looking Chicagoan, Stedman Graham, was an unexpected surprise.
  • Being just a few feet away as I reached for the President’s hand and being touched by a short gaze instead is a memory I’ll have forever - and a story my grandchildren can someday pass down to theirs.

Watch future articles for more about the banquet and the President’s visit. I’ve also still got to tell you about some really cool experiences I had on Friday and some Lincoln memories I made with my grandkids on Saturday. All I can say, over and over, is “Wow! What a week!”

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Absence makes the heart grow stronger – or does it?

Hold on now. Don’t let your mind wander. This isn’t about my personal relationship - or even about my trip to Springfield – not really. It’s about my blog and my relationship with it – or lack of - these past couple days.

Way off track
I have so much to tell you about Thursday afternoon, Friday and Saturday of Bicentennial week, and I had every intention of doing so today … but I got sidetracked. Not just a little bit sidetracked, but totally derailed. Now, for those of you who don’t know, I lived more than 30 years in Galesburg (Ill.), where you can’t drive across town without crossing at least two separate railroads, where Carl Sandburg listened to the rhythms of the trains, where a huge railroad yard sits below a hump-backed bridge. I know what a derailment is, and how massive the equipment looks which is brought in to get the train back on the track. Could someone please call for the equipment?

My problem started just about where the last blog post ended – a coincidence which must have some sort of symbolic meeting. One of my Lincoln friends is quite into technology and very adept at social media. As we stopped to visit for a few minutes after the Abraham Lincoln Association Roundtable and before the Bicentennial Luncheon with Michael Burlingame, we talked for a bit about online communication vehicles.

Four-letter words
I mentioned to my friend that I’d hoped to twitter, but ran into some technical challenges when trying to do it from my phone. I think we talked a little about LinkedIn and about blogging, and then I heard that compound word I’d been avoiding. Perhaps it’s no small coincidence that it’s created by combining two four-letter words. Have you guessed it? Facebook.

I told my LinkedIn Lincoln friend that I’d been avoiding Facebook. He said, “You need to be on it.” I knew that. Lincoln Buff 2 is not just a blog, but it’s also a brand – an online presence, as it were. It’s my way of showing people I care about Lincoln, and I want to help them do the same. The title means just that. It's designed to say, “You’re a Lincoln buff. I am, too (2).”

Facebook is one more way to get the word out. Yes, it is marketing my product – an unending enthusiasm for the legacy of the 16th president.

My blogging takes a tremendous amount of time, but I think it has value. I’m telling people about things they may not know in the Lincoln world, I’m creating enthusiasm for Lincoln and creating awareness about the bicentennial of his birth. There are only so many hours in a day, and I’ve just about maxed out the 24-hour credit card lately.

A broken record
Today was my first day post-Springfield. I had every intention of spending it catching up on the blog. But, I kept hearing my buddy’s words. “You need to be on it.” The echo started, “You need to be on it.” Again, “You need to be on it.” By then, the resistance had worn down…

So now, I’m on it.

The problem, though, is that so are scores of other people I’ve known and loved throughout my life – old college friends, former coworkers, extended family and yes, even Lincoln scholars. So, as evening settles in, my blog is still not caught up.

It’s all relative

But … I’m beginning to catch up with the Jens and the Kates and the Toms of my past – young parents whom I first knew as teens entering the workforce, now parents not a whole lot younger than I was when I first met them. Yes, I came up short on my blogging goal for the day, but I came a little closer to the words of a song I first heard as a Junior Girl Scout at day camp on the shores of a man-made lake:

Make new friends,
But keep the old,
One is silver
And the other’s gold.

Through no small coincidence, one of my Facebook friends is the Senior Girl Scout who taught me those cherished words.

An unproductive day? I’d rather think productivity is relative. More on Springfield soon.

And don’t worry, my dear blog, I haven’t dumped you.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

My Lincoln’s Birthday adventure – Part One

No matter how hard I try, I don’t think I can ever possibly recreate for all of you what a absolutely magical experience my bicentennial adventure was. My last blog post was written early in the morning of Lincoln’s birthday, as I was still looking forward to the festivities of his day. They didn’t disappoint.

I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to fill you in on the big day sooner. Between getting back to the room late from the banquet, getting up early to check out of my motel Friday and trying to get to my first event on time, I didn’t get to it. Friday was a full day, too, with no computer time. I’ll try to share some of Thursday’s highlights with you now, with more to follow on the rest of Thursday’s and Friday’s activities.

On Friday, Feb. 12, 2009 – Lincoln’s 200th birthday – a number of Springfield venues were hosting a multitude of exciting events – from the simultaneous reading of the Gettysburg Address at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum to roundtables, panel discussions, birthday stamp cancellations and more. Oh, and there was that little matter of the 44th President of the United States Barack Obama’s visit to the 16th President’s birthday party.

I had a list of events which covered several pages on the spreadsheet I’d prepared, and I’d originally planned to attend one after another from 8:15 a.m. until after 10 p.m. The challenges of getting where I needed to be with all the modifications to traffic patterns and accessibility due to the Presidential visit changed that, however. So, though I attended far fewer events than I’d earlier anticipated, it made my day no less exhilarating and memorable.

Writing Lincoln for children
I started the day attending an early morning panel discussion at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, which featured the following children’s authors and illustrators:
  • Bob Burleigh
  • Catherine Clinton
  • Cheryl Harness
  • Betty Kay
  • Wendell Minor
  • Karen Winnick

This event was a bit less well attended than most of the author events I’d experienced earlier in the week – due in part, I believe, to the early morning time slot (8:15 a.m.) and the proximity to the time of other events such as the simultaneous reading of the Gettysburg Address and the Abraham Lincoln Association Roundtable – The Age of Lincoln.

It’s a shame more people didn’t make this one, as it was phenomenal. The panelists discussed everything from their school days to the joy of visiting a classroom to encourage young people to read and follow their own dreams. I

’ve attended a number of writer workshops through the years, where recent retirees or young parents attending just know they have the next great kids’ book within them - one story they just know they’re destined to tell – something deep within their imagination. These folks usually don't have a clue as to what goes into writing a children's book.

These Lincoln authors, on the other hand, do. They told of the years of research put into one 32-page illustrated children’s book, the reality of rejection slips and the way each came to the trade – often twisted paths, but certainly worth the journey.

Abraham Lincoln Association Roundtable – The Age of Lincoln
I always love attending events in the courtroom of the Old State Capitol – looking over the contemporary scholars’ heads at the larger-than-life painting of George Washington, knowing that this is the very building where Lincoln delivered his “House Divided” speech, and that, just as he made history, history was being made again this week.

The 9:15 a.m. event was moderated by quintessential Lincoln scholar Michael Burlingame whose new one million-word, 2,000 page, two-volume Lincoln biography will likely still hold a place of great value in the Lincoln world one hundred years from now when America celebrates Lincoln’s tricentennial.

Others on the panel were:

  • Vernon Burton
  • David Contosta
  • Daniel Walker Howe
  • Russell McClintock
  • Elizabeth Varnon

It was interesting hearing the unique perspectives each brought – from that of Burton, a former Mississippi scholar now living in the Land of Lincoln to Russell McClintock, who uses his PhD in U.S. history to challenge the minds of high school students. The panelists engaged in thought-provoking dialogue on their areas of Lincoln expertise, but drew upon humor often enough to keep the crowd entertained.

Off to more Lincoln adventures
I’ll tell you more later about the remaining Thursday and Friday events – a lunch with Michael Burlingame, the challenges of getting to the evening venue through presidential security and the excitement of being in the same room with the President of the United States, 899 other people and what seemed like an army of security people.

For now, though, I’m headed back to Springfield one last time for the week, grandchildren in tow. I want to make sure they, too have memories of Lincoln bicentennial events to share with their own grandchildren someday – little ones not yet born who may, as adults attend Lincoln’s 300th birthday celebration.

In many places across Illinois and the country, it’s still not too late to take in some additional bicentennial events near you. Check the bicentennial calendar for more information.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Dream - dream big - they can come true!

Even before the movie "Bucket List" came out, I had one.

It wasn't a "things I have to do before I die" list, but rather a "things I want to do to celebrate where I am in life, keep my mind active and have something to look forward to" litany. My list started as a "55 at 55," became a "56 at 56" and later this year will morph into a "57 at 57." It's not a list set in stone, but rather a living, breathing "change as I change" kind of document. From the beginning, though, one of the things on the list was "Do significant work toward the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial."

Now, I knew this might be a pipe dream, and I even set it aside for a year or so, but last fall when Heartland College in Bloomington (Ill.) offered a course titled "The Life and Times of Abraham Lincoln," in celebration of the bicentennial, I signed up the day I learned of it. As time passed, I couldn't get enough of Lincoln - reading, writing, sleeping too little, savoring every morsel of the experience and the ever-expanding storehouse of knowledge.

The deeper I got into Lincoln, the more I was driven to share all the interesting and profound things I was learning. And thus, Lincoln Buff 2 blog was born - at first more a place for me to exert my creativity, share the things I'd learned, generate an interest in the sixteenth president and spread my enthusiasm for his legacy. Time continued to march forward and the blog became an obession, a commitment to disseminate information on events and - most of all - a labor of love.

I began to attend Lincoln lectures and events and made plans to cross off that item on my "56 at 56." Tomorrow afternoon, I'll do it. As I do, I'll add several more exciting items to the list. If I have not dreams, what have I?

I've been in Springfield all week, got to attend lots of events, met and visited with more than a dozen Lincoln scholars I admire, met celebrities I'd never dreamed of meeting and even was in the same room as the President of the United States of America as he joined Lincoln's birthday bash. It can't get much better than this!

I've still got events to savor yet today and tomorrow, and I can't wait to tell you about yesterday. But for now, I need to pull my reluctant fingers from the keyboard, get my act together and get to my next event.

Please help me spread the enthusiasm and keep the legacy of Lincoln alive.

Thanks for reading my blog and celebrating Lincoln's 200th birthday in your own special way. Keep coming back. I've got enough to share to keep this blog alive for a very, very long time.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Party till you drop - Lincoln buff's still standing

The Lincoln Buff had another big day Wednesday, from waking up to find that The State Journal-Register had used the interview with me in their bicentennial coverage to an interview on KBS, a Korean telelevision station, in the afternoon - right in front of the statue I use for the Lincoln image on my blog.

As I walked in the morning drizzle from my car to my first event, I passed under the Lincoln image Chris Killham created in Post-It Notes in the suspended walkway connecting the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library (ALPLM).

Springfield's farewell to Lincoln

After blogging most of my morning away, I went to the Farewell from Springfield event at the Prairie Capital Convention Center - an event which commemorated Lincoln's last day in Springfield before leaving for the White House on Feb. 11, 1861. The venue was filled with Springfield fifth graders. When I arrived, the atmosphere was electric, with nearly every voice in the house cheering loudly for Lincoln. I mentioned to the gentleman sitting next to me that this must have been what it was like at the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, where thousands were there to raise their voices for the railsplitter.

It was a very nice event with a band and color guard from Lincoln's era, a series of great little vignettes portraying the months leading up to the Lincoln's leaving and Fritz Klein as Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address. Everytime I hear Klein deliver it, it gives me goosebumps and almost brings me to tears.

The Lincoln Project
From there I walked back to the museum to take in the exhibit, The Lincoln Project, paintings by Don Pollack. The images are riveting and the exhibit one you won't want to miss. Be sure to read the wall plaque which talks about the artist and what his goal is in creating Lincoln works.

ALPLM - Always a good invesment of time
From there, I took in two of my museum favorites, Ghosts of the Library, and Lincoln's Eyes. No matter how many times I see these, they, too, give me goosebumps.

Wednesday was a good day to view and digest the library's exhibits. It wasn't very busy yet, so I could linger and see with greater depth many of the exhibits I'd passed quickly through in earlier visits.

Library staff to the rescue
In the afternoon, I dropped by to use a computer in the Presidential Library so I could see if my blog had had visits from the last two states. In the blog's four-month lifespan, visitors had come from the other 48. To my delight, there was only one holdout. With a little help from an archivist who suggested I call a historical society in the state - and a quick phone call to the number she found - the blog can now boast it's the place where all fifty states come to learn more about the Lincoln legacy.

One Destiny - A look back to Ford's Theatre
Lincoln Buffs who are in Washington, D.C. can visit the Ford's Theatre to take in a great little two-man play, One Destiny, a one-act piece which explores the events leading up to the assassination and the impact of that one night on the theatre and those connected with it. And, this week only, visitors to the ALPLM can see it, too. The play is phenomenal - and moves those in the audience to think a little deeper about that fateful act, the place where it took place and the place the event holds in memory. If you can, go see it.

First former slave to own Illinois land
A little-known and important story in Illinois history is the story of Free Frank McWorter, the first former slave to purchase Illinois soil (after purchasing his own freedom), and the founder of the Pike County town, New Philadelphia. The Illinois State Museum hosted a thought-provoking program with Abdul Alkalimat, great-great grandson of Free Frank. Though I missed what my friends describe as a magnificent symphony concert, hearing this talk was well worth it. McWorter was a contemporary of Lincoln, with parallels between the lives of the two men and their journeys to Illinois, yet Alkalimit touched on even deeper aspects of what community and the legacy all must build and pass on. It was a great event to celebrate Humble Beginnings in Lincoln's Illinois.

Reverence for the railsplitter - Dedication to his documents
I closed the eve of the bicentennial with a return visit to the ALPLM, where the Gettysburg Address, Emancipation Proclamation and 13th Amendment were displayed. Lincoln's legacy and these documents took on even greater meaning after the McWorter event. The crowd was incredible, and as for the visitation of a dear friend or a revered community member, no one complained at having to wait. As of 11 p.m., more than 1,000 had stood in that line.

I stepped into the museum's Union Theatre for readings of some of Lincoln's own words and works by others such as Carl Sandburg, Edward Lee Masters and Doris Kearns Goodwin, done by Lincoln presenter Michael Krebs, Mary Todd Lincoln presenter Debra Lee Miller and others. It was a relaxing way to end my day. I even found myself nodding off a bit - not in boredom, but in that peaceful way as when a loved one is reading a favorite story to put a youngster to sleep.

Lingering image symbolic of lasting legacy
This morning, I awoke to one final image - that of a young sailor in uniform and his family I met on their way to the vigil after 11 p.m. This image seemed so apropro - a tall lanky man, accompanied by a wife bundled against the cold - the couple with one babe wrapped tightly and bundled,too, and another tagging along held by a hand. I couldn't help but compare them to another couple who walked these Springfield streets with youngsters in tow 150-some years ago - another couple who knew what it meant to be American and to leave a legacy - a legacy of service, a reverence for the past, a dedication to the principles on which this nation was founded and for which it stands yet today.

God bless that couple, God bless America and God bless the memory of Abraham Lincoln.

Happy 200th birthday, President Lincoln!

Here in the Land of Lincoln, the clock just struck midnight. The big day we've looked forward to and planned for is here. It's time to wish Abraham Lincoln a happy 200th birthday.

As I type this, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is hosting an all night vigil for Lincoln. In conjunction with the vigil, original copies of the Gettysburg Address, Emancipation Proclamation and 13th Amendment are on display.

Until after 11 p.m., the line to view the documents wound through the lobby, down the hall, into an exhibit holding area and around the museum plaza. It reminded me of a visitation I once attended for a well-loved young school teacher who died much too young. As in that case, the people coming today were there to pay their respects to someone whose life made a difference.

The celebration gets even bigger and better tomorrow, as people in Springfield, Washington, D. C. and many places in between hold celebrations. At 9:30 Central Time, school children throughout the nation will join together to read the Gettysburg Address in an effort to break the Guiness world record.

Please join in a celebration of Lincoln's big day. If you can't, at least take a few minutes to stop and reflect on how the life of one individual can change the course of history. Lincoln mattered then and he still matters today. Remember the life he lived and emulate the values he espoused - hard work, honesty and lifelong learning.

Happy birthday, Mr. President!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

We did it! Happy birthday, President Lincoln, from all 50 states.

When I started this blog a little over four months ago, never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would have visits from across the country, more than 20 foreign countries and five continents.

As Lincoln's birthday drew near, I was down to a handful of states who hadn't visited. This morning, that handful had dwindled to two. An email to a newspaper editor in one state generated a visit, so there was one lone holdout. Emails and a phone call to newspapers and archivists had yielded no results.

As I lamented my fate to one of the helpful archivists, Jane Ehrenhart, at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, she offered to look up a phone number for the historical society in the missing state. All it took was one phone call and a helpful young lady from the state's historic preservation agency logged on to the blog while we were on the phone.

It's official, President Lincoln, you've got Lincoln Buffs in all 50 states. Thank you, America.

It just keeps getting better

Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2009 started off like most mornings - woke up before the alarm, drank a couple cups of coffee while I checked email, read online news and blogged. After breakfast I headed to my first Lincoln destination of the day in my continuing Bicentennial journey - a visit to the new exhibit at the Illinois State Museum -From Humble Beginnings: Lincoln's Illinois, 1830-1861. It opened Feb. 6 and runs through Jan. 1, 2010.

I just can't say enough good things about the exhibit. It is absolutely fantastic! It's a brilliantly done history lesson covering all the forces in play in the prairie state in the years Lincoln was here. I was impressed from the first wall plaque I read through the final piece I laid eyes on. I had to leave to attend my next event, but hated to, knowing I'd not savored the exhibit to the depth I would have liked. The good news is that since it will be there all year I can go back - and so can you!

The next event contained one pleasant surprise after another. I attended an afternoon reception at the Vachel Lindsay Home - with Illinois Lincoln poet Dan Guillory, the period muscians, Prairie Chickens, readings of Lindsey poems by a spunky little retired school teacher with a booming voice and powerful rhythm, Marge Deffenbaugh, a brief history lesson by Springfield city historian Curtis Mann, and a monologue by talented Mary Todd Smith presenter Kathey Reed. I ended up finding my own moment in the spotlight at that event, as State Journal-Register writer Pete Sherman interviewed me and featured me in an article in today's paper. Thanks, Pete.

As if the moment of fame wasn't enough, I also had a brush with greatness. Artist Sacha Newley was at the event. Newly is a brilliantly gifted artist who portrays his subjects with a depth that's nearly unsurpassed - and the son of actress Joan Collins and late actor Anthony Newley. This curly-headed gent is not only gifted and good-looking, but incredibly gracious. Meeting him was a pleasant surprise and a true pleasure. I'll write more about Newly and his work in a future blog.

The evening event was a lecture at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum by the poet and biographer Daniel Mark Epstein, whose The Lincolns: Portrait of a Marriage is surely the most lyrical Lincoln volume since Sandburg's Lincoln works. The imagery in his narrative is amazing, and it's appears from the rhythms in his prose that he surely must read his work aloud as he writes. Epstein, too, is gracious and appreciative of the loyalty of his readers. Watch for more on him in the coming months as I read his books and share my impressions here.

Another pleasant surprise was bumping into Illinois State Represenative Don Moffitt and a couple of his colleagues. When I was back in Galesburg, working as a grocery clerk (also one of Lincoln's former professions), Moffitt was a customer at the store where I worked. It's always good to see him again.

Now, it's off to another Lincoln adventure...

Going to the ALA banquet? - Here's what you need to know

If there were two things you needed to know about attending the Abraham Lincoln Association Banquet celebrating the railsplitter's 200th birthday, it's get there early and travel light - small purse or backpack - no big stuff.

My friends - and Abe's - at The State Journal-Register have all the stuff you need to know in today's paper and online version. Be sure to check it out, 'cause if you don't get there and get in on time, you won't get in at all. Presidential security requires that everyone be seated and the doors shut by 6:30 for the 7 p.m. event. If you've got a ticket, you won't want to miss this moment in history.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Join in all-night Lincoln vigil - See original Gettysburg Address, Emancipation Proclamation, 13th Amendment

Please join me and other Lincoln buffs in Springfield at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM) for an all-night vigil, starting at 5 p.m Wednesday, Feb. 11, and ending at 8 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 12, Lincoln's 200th birthday. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see original copies of the Gettysburg Address, Emancipation Proclamation and 13th Amendment all in one place.

Here's the information my friends at the ALPLM asked me to share. Won't you please join us?

“Now he belongs to the ages.”

Three key Lincoln documents to be displayed during overnight Lincoln’s Birthday vigil at Presidential Museum

Three of the world’s most significant, original Abraham Lincoln documents will be displayed in the overnight hours leading up to his 200th birthday, a first-of-its-kind vigil in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum that will remind visitors why our 16th President’s legacy continues to fascinate and inspire people from around the globe.

Entitled “Now he belongs to the ages” after a phrase uttered by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton upon Lincoln’s death, the vigil will feature the Gettysburg Address, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the 13th Amendment which abolished slavery.

All three original documents from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum may be viewed overnight beginning at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, February 11 through 8 a.m. on Lincoln’s 200th birthday, Thursday, February 12. The viewing is free and open to the public, and will take place in a dramatic setting in the plaza of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum.

Boy Scout Troop 222 from Buffalo and Girl Scout Troop 5505 from Ashland will participate in opening and closing flag ceremonies during the vigil. Members of the U.S. armed services will also take part. Michael Krebs of Chicago, as Abraham Lincoln, will present readings of Lincoln’s words from 9 to 11 p.m. February 11 in the Museum’s Union Theater.

“Museum visitors often tell us the facility makes them proud to be Illinoisans. It’s our mission to raise awareness, but during the Bicentennial we also want to raise a few goose bumps. After all, what we do isn’t just about making good citizens, it’s also about making family memories based on awe and inspiration. Those who come to the museum for the vigil are in for a special night,” said Jan Grimes, acting director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM).

The Gettysburg Address is one of five original copies of the famous speech written in Lincoln’s hand. He wrote this one for Edward Everett, the principal speaker on November 19, 1863, and it was the first to include the phrase “under God.” The two-page Address is mounted inside its own specially-designed frame, which measures approximately 30 by 22 inches.

The Emancipation Proclamation is one of the officially printed commemorative copies that Lincoln signed in full, along with Secretary of State William Seward and Lincoln’s private secretary, John G. Nicolay. It is fortunate that the commemorative printing was ordered, because Lincoln’s original manuscript was lost in the Chicago Fire of 1871. The Proclamation measures approximately 27 by 20 inches.

The 13th Amendment is the fully signed manuscript Resolution from the House of Representatives, bearing signatures from Lincoln, Vice President Hannibal Hamlin, and 142 members of the House. From there it went to the state legislatures for ratification, and became a formal part of the U.S. Constitution in December 1865 after enough states passed it. The document is approximately 20 inches tall by 15 inches wide.

Full transcripts of each document, with brief descriptions, will be available for all visitors.

The Museum Plaza where the three documents will be displayed is a grand venue with a 70-foot ceiling and full-size reproductions of a log cabin* and the 1861 White House. Ambient light accented by exhibit lighting of less than 15 footcandles of illumination will make for a dramatic, moving and reverent display of these three important pieces of world history.

“Now he belongs to the ages” will be the first event of Lincoln’s 200th birthday on February 12. Springfield visitors are encouraged to take part in the other Lincoln Bicentennial events of that day, including:
  • A simultaneous, nationwide reading of the Gettysburg Address originating from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum at 9:30 a.m., and featuring Illinois schoolchildren.
  • The 75th Annual National American Legion Pilgrimage to Lincoln Tomb, 10:30 a.m.
  • The Lincoln Authors Book Fair featuring more than 20 authors signing copies of their Lincoln books, all day, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.
  • 1860s Period Ball featuring Civil War era music, dancing and fashions, and the cutting of Lincoln’s birthday cake, 6 p.m., Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum.

For more information on Bicentennial activities or the ALPLM, visit

* The image of young Lincoln reading, which you see on the Lincoln Buff 2 blog, is of the statue outside the log cabin at the ALPLM. I took it on the opening day of the museum in April 2005, the day I waited in line to be the seventh paying visitor.

See rare Lincoln documents in New York

It's been my very real privilege these past few days to be asked by media relations people at a variety of organizations to help them promote their Lincoln Bicentennial events or exhibits. If you're in the New York City area, you won't want to miss an exhibit which begins on Lincoln's birthday at the New York Historical Society.

The companion book to this exhibit features contributions by some of my favorite Lincoln historians, including two who encourage me in my quest to study and promote Lincoln - Harold Holzer and Richard Carwardine.

Here is the information the society asked me to share:

Rare and important Lincoln manuscripts on display
Abraham Lincoln in His Own Words Is Latest Presentation in theLincoln Year, Commemorating the Bicentennial of the Sixteenth President

A draft of the epoch-making “House Divided” speech, stirring notes for an address against slavery, a telegram encouraging General Ulysses S. Grant at a turning point in the Civil War, and the resolution for the Thirteenth Amendment bearing the President’s signature: These are among the rare and important letters, papers and official documents in Abraham Lincoln’s own hand that will be on display, as the New-York Historical Society presents, in partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the exhibition Abraham Lincoln in His Own Words.

Opening on February 12, 2009 (the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth) and remaining on view through July 12, Abraham Lincoln in His Own Words is the latest offering in the Historical Society’s Lincoln Year of exhibitions, lectures, events and public programs commemorating the bicentennial. The Lincoln Year will culminate in the Historical Society’s major exhibition for 2009, Lincoln and New York (opening October 2), for which the distinguished Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer has served as chief historian.

“Nothing matches the immediacy of approaching a great figure through authentic objects,” stated Dr. Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “Visitors to Abraham Lincoln in His Own Words will experience this thrill of physical presence, as they view Abraham Lincoln’s life and career in the original, from his period as an attorney and legislator in Illinois through his assassination and its aftermath.”

“As Lincoln begins his third century in American memory, we hope these documents will help illuminate his unique contribution to our country’s history,” stated James G. Basker, President of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

In addition to seeing handwritten public documents by Lincoln, visitors will also encounter his more personal side, in letters to a struggling school friend of his eldest son and to his wife Mary (the latter written days before his death). Also on view are first edition texts, including a signed lithograph of his Emancipation Proclamation, a broadside of his Second Inaugural Address distributed in 1865, and a copy of his First Inaugural Address as published in 1861 in the Chicago Tribune.

Lending dramatic context to these items are a variety of other remarkable period objects, such as photographs, prints, sculptures, testimonies, and more. Visitors will see a cast of Lincoln’s face made in 1860 by sculptor Leonard Volk; a photograph by Alexander Gardner of Lincoln and General McClellan in the field in 1862; a Currier & Ives print of the fall of Richmond in 1865; and a letter of condolence to Mary Todd Lincoln from Frederick Douglass, written in August 1865.

Rounding out the exhibition are the original artists’ models by Daniel Chester French for the Lincoln sculpture commissioned by Lincoln, Nebraska (1911) and for the colossal seated figure at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. (1916).

With the exception of the sculptures, all objects in the exhibition are drawn from the Gilder Lehrman Collection, which is on deposit at the New-York Historical Society.

An accompanying illustrated book, Great Lincoln Documents: Historians Present Treasures from the Gilder Lehrman Collection, has been published by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, featuring essays by ten noted historians, including James McPherson, Allen Guelzo, David Blight, Richard Carwardine, and Harold Holzer.

More well-wishers needed - Hawaii, Mississippi and Africa

There are some of us who are a little more enthusiastic about Abraham Lincoln than others, for a variety of reasons. This blogger has been mesmerized by the legacy of Lincoln for as long as I can remember. Many other people are just getting interested in light of the bicentennial of his birth.

In the past four months, this website, dedicated to generating interest in Lincoln and keeping his legacy alive has had visitors from 48 states and five continents. It would be terrific if we could say that by his Feb. 12 birthday, all 50 states had stopped in to say "hi" - and really, really cool if someone from Africa visited the website.

Please, readers, help spread the word. If you know someone in one of these states or serving in public service or as a volunteer in Africa, please shoot them an email and ask them to stop in to visit this site, a tribute to Lincoln. There is no need to leave a comment, but if they wish to use the comments function to say, "Happy Birthday," I'll pass it along.

Now, I'm off to more Springfield bicentennial events. More on that later. Happy Bicentennial!

Please help spread the word - Gettysburg Address

Readers across the country, we need your help. The planners of Lincoln's birthday party would love to see a world record broken, and we'll need to be more than 223,363 strong to do it.

Help spread the word about the simultaneous reading of the Gettysburg Address. You can learn more at this link from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum's website.

You can do even more. If you haven't seen information about this in your local newspaer, heard about it on your local radio station or seen anyone talking it up on your local TV station, please call them and ask them to help. With everyone working together to raise awareness of this cool event, we can do it.

It will take the help of schools, too. Are your kids' schools reading it aloud? If you don't know, call. If they're not, ask them to. What a terrific way to make your children and their schools a part of history. Let's show them that history isn't just dates and names, but real people, powerful events and legacies. They'll be leaving one on Feb. 12 if they participate in this event, and you will be, too, by showing them that you value this time in history, the lasting power of 271 well-written words and the legacy of America's greatest president.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Bicentennial doesn't disappoint

Folks, the Lincoln buff is here in Springfield and the party has begun. Here's what I've been up to the last couple days, and there's ton's more fun to come.

Saturday, Feb, 7 events
I heard I missed some great events. Apparently, there was a wonderful spiritual concert at the Old State Capitol on Saturday night. I ran into a man today who said his wife couldn't stop saying good things about it. I've talked to several, too, who attended Saturday evening's Order of Lincoln award dinner. Apparently, all but a couple of the nominees were able to make it - pretty good considering they were from all over the country and even one from England.

Sunday presentations
I attended two Sunday activities - a lecture by author and Columbia University professor Eric Foner and a panel discussion with Dan Weinberg of the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop in Chicago, along with Judge Frank Williams, Philip Kunhardt III, Louise Taper and Jack Smith.

Foner's lecture was super. This man can boil a complex topic down and make it understandable, and even entertain while he does it. Those who've had him as students are blessed. He talked about the evolution of Lincoln's views on slavery, which is no easy thing to condense, and left me thinking, "If anyone can help me understand reconstruction, Foner can. I need to read his book!"

Foner was doing a book signing, but because of another commitment, I didn't take time to meet him. I regret that, but do hope I get to meet him at the Lincoln Forum Symposium at Gettysburg in the fall.

Collecting Lincoln
Weinberg's panel discussion was really cool. These folks all have incredible Lincoln collections and it was interesting hearing how they all got started and watching the healthy ribbing and rivalry they have. I'll share more about how each of them got started and a little about some of the items they've had an opportunity to own or to pass on to others through the years.

I got to meet all but Smith afterwards. I still say these Lincoln scholars are the warmest, most encouraging folks I've ever met. Yesterday was no exception. I look forward to getting to know these people better as I pursue my Lincoln work.

Monday morning
I had an errand to run before I came to Springfield this morning, so I got down mid-morning. I'd made my birthday card for Lincoln last night and went to the Old State Capitol to drop it off. I forgot the new stamps were issued today - right there! There were two lines inside - one for purchasing the stamps and another for getting the visiting dignitary's autograph. Both wound the length of the inside of the building when I was there shortly before 11 a.m.

I spent the next hour dropping in on some folks in the Old State Capitol area. My first stop was Tingley's Dry Goods Store, a fun little shop down the block from the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices.

From there, I stopped in to see the folks at Looking for Lincoln. They're keeping really busy, opening new wayside exhibits - Mt. Pulaski the other day and Quincy today. And, they're getting ready to host hundreds of fifth graders and other interested guests at the Farewell to Springfield event at the Prairie Convention Center on Wednesday.

I also made my first visit to a legendary Springfield book store, Prairie Archives. I'll devote an entire blog to it someday. This is a place you have to experience with your senses, and it will be worth the wait

After a very nice visit over lunch with a Lincoln scholar friend, I headed to Lincoln's Home for the afternoon. I told you a few weeks ago that they'd gussied the home up for company. The new carpet and wallpaper in the parlor really looks nice, and as I walked the neighborhood, I could see busy little National Park Service beavers getting the grounds in the Lincoln Home neighborhood all spruced up.

This evening's lecture was by Oxford scholar and Lincoln Prize winning author Richard Carwardine, whom I had he pleasure of getting to know better this week. He talked about Lincoln and the world and shared information about an upcoming Lincoln conference in England. I'll share more on that after the bicentennial.

I did meet a couple of really neat people tonight - a member of the Oregon bicentennial commission and Decatur (Ill.) Lincoln presenter Lonn Presnall.

I'll try to fill you in by Wednesday about the Tuesday events i attended. I've got a couple really cool things planned, and tomorrow night I hope to watch Prelude to the Presidency as it airs on PBS here in Springfield. I may even try to twitter again - didn't have much time for it today.

*Forgive me for not putting links in. I'm still trying to learn the laptop. I'll plug some in after the bicentennial events slow down. In the meantime, please google.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Upcoming Lincoln events you won’t want to miss

When I set out to do this blog four months ago, I knew there would be a lot to share before the bicentennial, but I don’t think I realized how much I wouldn’t have time to share. I’ve missed out on sharing a number of events I wish I could have. The days are only so long. On many of them I’ve been not only burning the candle at both ends, but sometimes I think it’s spring tentacles and I’m burning it at the ends of all of them, too.

Here are four events which are special to me, and I think you’ll enjoy them, too. Why are they special? It’s because in one way or another, I like to call the people involved with each of these my Lincoln friends. I wanted to share more about all these events, but time just got away from me. I’ll give you a “Reader’s Digest” version and hope to follow up with more later.

In the next few days, you’ll want to catch a Virtual Book Signing wherever you are, a play if you can make it to Bloomington (Ill.) and a couple of cool bicentennial events in Springfield with people whose work I admire.
  • Virtual Book Signing with Ronald White and Catherine Clinton
  • Lincoln’s in Town! original production, Bloomington (Ill.)
  • Emancipation and the Dream of Freedom - From Slavery to the White House with Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King, Springfield (Ill.)
  • Chris Vallillo, Abraham Lincoln in Song, Springfield, Ill.

Virtual Book Signing
Daniel Weinberg of Chicago is the owner of the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop. He’s got a gift a store owner needs – the ability to make a person feel as if they are important to him – whether it’s in an author interview, at a signing of his own book or in the hallway at a scholarly event. Yet, somehow I feel that even if he weren’t a merchant who knew that anyone could someday be your customer, he’s still just be this all-around kind and very pleasant guy.

Weinberg hosts Virtual Book Signing, and this Saturday, Feb. 14 at noon, he’ll have two of the authors on his show whom I first met or heard speak at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum’s opening symposium in 2005: Ronald C. White, Jr., author of A. Lincoln: A Biography, and Catherine Clinton, author of Mrs. Lincoln: A Life.

You won’t want to miss these interviews, but if you do, be sure to go back to the website later to see them online.

Lincoln’s in Town!
I really wanted to tell you a whole lot more about this next production. Robert Bray is an Illinois Wesleyan University professor, whose work I’ve used over and over through the last 18 years as I’ve studied the literature and history of Illinois, including Lincoln. He and writer Nancy Steele Brokaw are the playwrights for a new play about Lincoln’s time in McLean County (Ill.)

Here’s the information from the play’s website. I have much more to share with you, but I’ll have to do it as a follow-up piece later. I think you’ll still enjoy hearing about it. In the meantime, if you’re in the area, you oughta come. It will be a great show, but don’t wait. Tickets are really selling well.

Lincoln's In Town! is an original dramatization of Abraham Lincoln's sojourns in Bloomington, Illinois. This show, which includes an annotated booklet, was designed for Lincoln buffs, school children, and everyone in between.

The play follows Lincoln's Bloomington career from his initial appearance as a newly-minted lawyer through all of his best known legal and political appearances in town - including the famous 'Lost Speech' of 1856.

The storytellers of the production, a grandfather and his young grandson, wait at the recreated Bloomington train depot for Lincoln's train to arrive in town. The stories they tell come to life before the audience's eyes, and include a story-telling Lincoln entertaining the town children, a rollicking courtroom scene, tense political debating and plotting with Leonard Swett, David Davis and Jesse Fell, a memorable haircut with Billy the Barber and Asahel Gridley, a quilting bee gone awry, and much, much more.

Lincoln's friends and experiences in Bloomington, his 'second hometown,' helped to shape the man who saved the nation. Learn how all that happened in a true historical celebration on stage at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts, February 13-15, 2009.

Lincoln's In Town! is a commissioned project of the McLean County Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. It is produced by Holiday Spectacular, Inc.

Emancipation and the Dream of Freedom - From Slavery to the White House
This Springfield event is part of the Bicentennial festivities there. I just had to tell you about it, because two of the three are the most believable characters you’d ever want to meet – and just plain really neat people, too. The third might be, too. I just don’t know who the presenter is or, obviously, anything about him.

Stop by the Lincoln Home Historic Site in Springfield on Friday, Feb. 13 at 2 p.m or Saturday, Feb. 14 at 10 a.m. to see Frederick Douglass (Michael E. Crutcher, Sr.), Harriet Tubman (Kathryn Harris) and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Crutcher and Harris play their roles so well, that you’ll think you’d stepped back to Lincoln’s time. Be sure you don’t’ miss this.

Abraham Lincoln in Song
While you’re at Lincoln’s Home on Saturday, Feb. 14, be sure not to miss my west central Illinois buddy, songster Chris Vallillo with Rocky Maffit with his program "Abraham Lincoln in Song." The performance is at 1 p.m.

And that’s not all
I wish I could share all the other cool Lincoln Bicentennial events I’ve read and heard about with you, but I’m just plain tuckered out, as a Southern Uplands frontierman like Lincoln might say. This is it for now. I’ve got a big week ahead of me.

Be sure to follow me on twitter. I had some technical challenges today (translate: didn’t know what the heck I was doing), but I think I’ve got a work-around. I should be back in business tomorrow. And, who knows, if I have insomnia, you may even see some surprise blog posts from me this week.

In the meantime, this is what we’ve been anxiously awaiting. This week really is the Bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth. Enjoy it, celebrate it, learn from it. To find events in your area, please visit these websites:

Don’t forget to send a birthday card
It’s still not too late to send Lincoln a birthday card, you know. Try to do an original card rather than store-bought. As soon as I get this posted, I’m going to make mine!

Watch Prelude to the Presidency – Lincoln’s formative Illinois years

As America prepares to observe Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, a new film underwritten by COUNTRY Financial will show how he became one of the most important figures in American history.

“Lincoln: Prelude to the Presidency” will air on WILL TV, Urbana (Ill.) on Monday, Feb.9 at 8 p.m. Central Time and appear on PBS stations across the country all week.

The film highlights Lincoln’s formative years as a lawyer and speaker in Central Illinois, which is also the location of the COUNTRY Home Offices. Reenactments and expert interviews help tell the story of this important time in Lincoln’s life when he earned recognition and shaped the beliefs and values he would later use as president.

“COUNTRY is proud to play a role in marking the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birthday,” says Doyle Williams, chief marketing officer for COUNTRY. “We invite the public to watch this film and learn how this man went from a small town in Illinois to become one of the most important figures in American History.”

About two dozen PBS stations across the country will broadcast the film within the next week to mark Lincoln’s birthday (Feb.12) and Presidents Day (Feb. 16).

With contributions from some of my favorites
Several of my favorite Lincoln experts were involved with this film. My fellow McLean County Lincoln buff, the guy who surely knows more about the Lincoln and the Eighth Judicial Circuit than anyone, was the production subject matter expert. Guy is writing a book on the Lincoln's ciruit riding days, and you can bet you’ll read all about it here when it’s out.

If I’m understanding the information on the film’s website correctly, several Lincoln scholars are also featured. I had a chance to visit with two of them today – the always entertaining, recently retired Chief Justice Frank J. Williams and the gracious and delightful Edna Greene Medford. Also featured are Byron Andreasen, Orville Vernon Burton, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Wayne Temple.

Dates and times – Check your local listing

These are the dates and times I was able to obtain for various showings across the country. Please check your local listing to make sure of the correct date and time for the PBS station near you.
  • Arizona (KUAT) - Feb. 9 at 10:30 pm
  • Atlanta (PBA) - Feb. 12 at 9:30 p.m.
  • Boston (WGBH) - Feb. 12 at 10:00 pm, repeated 3:00 am
  • Bowling Green, Ohio (WBGU) - Feb. 22 at 2 p.m.
  • Carbondale (WSIU) Feb. 10 at 9 p.m.
  • Charleston (WEIU) Feb. 12 at 7 p.m.
  • Chicago (WTTW) - Feb. 9 at 10:30 pm
  • Chicago (WYCC) - Feb. 15 at 8:00 pm
  • Columbus (WOSU) - Feb. 15 at 12:30 PM
  • Detroit PTV - Feb. 9 at 10:30 pm
  • Fresno (KVPT) - Feb. 9 at 10:30 pm
  • Idaho Public Television - Feb. 10 at 9 p.m.
  • Indianapolis (WFYI) - Feb. 12 at 9 p.m.
  • Los Angeles (KCETWorld) - Feb.10 at 8 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Feb. 11 at 12 a.m.
  • Milwaukee (MPTV, Channel 10) - Mar. 10 at 7:00 pm
  • New Hampshire PTV - Feb. 12 at 11:30 pm
  • Orlando (WMFE) - Feb. 9 at 10:30 pm
  • Pittsburgh (WQED) - Feb. 11 at 8:00 pm
  • Rocky Mountain PBS - Feb. 11 at 7:00 pm
  • San Bernardino (KVCR) - Feb. 17 at 9:00 pm
  • Springfield (WSEC) Feb. 10 at 9 p.m.
  • Utah Educational Network - Feb. 11 at 9:00 pm, repeated Sunday at 2:00 am
  • Tampa, FL (WUSF) - Feb. 11 at 10 p.m.

I'm looking forward to watching this - hope you are too!

Can't make it to Springfield? - Watch webcasts

I just discovered that several of the Springfield Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial events at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum will be available through webcasts, so you don't have to join me there to see them. Here's the link - hope you enjoy them as much as I'm sure I will.

Is your school joining the Lincoln Teach-In? There's still time.

Good media relations people keep plugging their stories anyway they can, as long as they can, and the U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission staff is doing just that - even if it takes working weekends to get the word out. I had a reminder mail yesterday about the commission's National Teach-In. You won't want to miss it.

Two of my favorite Lincoln scholars, who have both so kindly answered my many questions, inspired me, believed in me and even mentored me, will be leading the event, along with another quintessential Lincoln scholar I've yet to meet, but would feel privileged to.

Be sure to watch Harold Holzer, head of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and author of more than 30 Lincoln books, Matthew Pinsker, author of Lincoln's Sanctuary, and Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals. Best wishes, guys. I know the Teach-In is in good hands. Ms. Goodwin, I look forward to the day when we, too, can meet. Happy Bicentennial and thanks to all of you.

From the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission

Dear schools, libraries, museums and learning centers:

Join the over 4000+ educational organizations and sign up for the ALBC National Teach-in. Organized with and broadcasted live from the National Archives in Washington, DC, this special ALBC event features Lincoln scholars, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Matthew Pinsker and Harold Holzer, sharing their expertise and answering students questions from all over the country.Educators and students nationwide can tune-in and view this LIVE webcast online at Teachers, students, and families can also find enrichment resources and study guides which may be used at any time and/or can help prepare for the event.

ALBC National Teach-in
Thursday, February 12, 2009
1:30 PM EST
Live at National Archives - Washington, DC

Sign up now at Learn more about the Bicentennial celebrations happening around the nation at

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Let's break the record - Get your school to recite the Gettysburg Address

I was done blogging for this week. I really was.

But then my communications buddies down at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and the Illinois Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission got in touch with me. They're reallly excited about breaking this world record for the number of people simultaneously reading the Gettysburg Address at the same time on Lincoln's birthday, Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009.

They'd love to have us all spread the word far and wide. They did a really good job of putting a press release together. Okay, I know that's what they get paid for, but you try it - it's hard work crafting all those words just so, and even harder preparing for an event like the Bicentennial and Presidential visit. I think they've done a super-duper job, and if all of you have been reading about all the Lincoln events, hearing about them on the radio and seeing it on TV, they have accomplished their goal.

Since it's Saturday night, and I'm off to Springfield myself in the morning, I'm sharing their press release with you verbatim - and, for extra measure, adding the text of the Gettysburg Address in case you've forgotten it since you last memorized or recited it in school.

Ask your kids if they're going to be reciting it in school this week. If not, pick up the phone, make a call and get that school on board.

Illinois gears up for simultaneous reading of Gettysburg Address; Aiming for new Guinness World Record

Simultaneous reading at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 12 part of Abraham Lincoln’s 200th Birthday celebration with Abe fans across the nation

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Education is joining with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum to encourage students across the state to participate in a nation-wide simultaneous reading of the Gettysburg Address at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 12 and help set a new Guinness World Record. The reading is part of a series of state and national events marking Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday.

“This celebration of the life and legacy of our nation’s 16th President is a once in a lifetime opportunity,’’ said State Superintendent Christopher A. Koch. “We hope that everyone in school on Feb. 12 will recite President Lincoln’s highly regarded speech. Students can always open books and learn, but this is an opportunity to experience – and perhaps make – history.”

Lincoln’s Birthday is officially a school holiday, but schools can be in session that day. In fact, more than 93 percent of Illinois Schools have petitioned ISBE to hold classes on Feb. 12.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the record for most people reading aloud simultaneously is 223,363 participants. The February 12 reading will be broadcast live at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Museum and on its Web site. Teachers and school administrators can register for the reading at where they can also find the Gettysburg Address and other resources for the day, as well as forms that must be completed if that school wishes to become part of the world record attempt. Schools may participate without taking part in the record attempt if they wish.

In addition, public school students in grades 5 and 8 who are in class that day will receive a commemorative poster with the 271 words that President Lincoln so eloquently delivered in 1863 on the battlefield near Gettysburg.

“Lincoln’s brief speech reminds Americans that the ideals of equality and freedom are the foundations of healthy democratic government,’’ said Illinois State Historian Thomas Schwartz. “A moving testament to the honored dead, the address is also a challenge to contemplate what the ultimate cause for their sacrifice was. Lincoln urges Americans to expand their understanding of American equality through a `new birth of freedom,’ for the former enslaved peoples.’’

The February 12 Gettysburg Address reading, entitled the Four Score and Seven Project, is generously supported by JP Morgan Chase, MacArthur Foundation and The Chicago Community Trust, and administered by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation.

“We know that teaching and learning become more effective when students are engaged and participating in what they’re studying,’’ said Superintendent Koch. “We hope that the activities of the day will whet the appetites of future historians.’’

The Gettysburg Address
The text of the November 19, 1863 Gettysburg Address follows:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here, have, thus far, so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Delaware, Hawaii and Mississippi - Where are you?

In just two days, Lincoln Buff 2 blog will be four months old, and in just five days, we'll be celebrating Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday. In those four months, we've had visits to the blog from five continents, 24 countries and 47 states.

If you know someone in Delaware, Hawaii or Mississippi, please send them a link and ask them to stop in to share in our celebration of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial.

It may be a little harder to get visitors from Africa and Antarctica by the big day, but wouldn't that be cool?! (Could someone who knows more about technology than I do tell me - do they even have the Internet in Antarctica? Can they get it by satellite? How many people are even there, anyway?)

In memory of another Lincoln buff

The closer we get to Lincoln’s 200th birthday, the more I think of a “friend” I never met in person who would have liked to celebrate this with us.

About ten years ago, I submitted my first freelance book review to The State Journal-Register of Springfield (Ill.). I had a special interest in the literature and history of Illinois and so did the book page editor, Doug Pokorski. Yet, he unselfishly sent several Lincoln books my way during the two years I wrote for the paper.

This man knew Lincoln, and he knew the people who knew Lincoln best. As one of his former editors said, Pokorski was “dead on.” He got the story right – every single time. Because of this, the writer earned the respect of Lincoln scholars from near and far.

Pokorski wrote about the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum for years as it was first a dream, then a slow moving project. I have no doubt he eagerly looked forward to the big day when it would open its doors.

Unfortunately, Doug Pokorski passed away in April 2004, less than a year before the museum opened. Others told the story he’d followed for so long.

As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, I think Pokorski would have enjoyed it, too. I think he would have liked covering the visits of two living Presidents and the run for the presidency which started on the Old State Capitol steps.

I think he would have savored the interviews and written great stories. I think the scholars would have enjoyed talking to him, too. Any “source” loves it when the interviewer really knows the subject at hand.

Although the Lincoln spark in my life started a half-century ago or more and was nurtured by others along the way, Doug Pokorski gave me a chance to write about Lincoln, believed in me and nurtured me. I’ll be thinking of him as I pound his beat looking for a new story angle for my blog and, like him, I’ll continue to strive to get each story right.

I dedicate this, my last full column before I head to Springfield, to my fellow Lincoln buff, Doug.

To learn more
There is a very nice article about Doug in a University of Illinois at Springfield publication. It’s a pdf, so scroll to pages 16 and 17 to read about the life he lived and the legacy he left.