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.

No comments: