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.

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