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ALBC Town Hall - Miami, FL


Race, Freedom and Equality of Opportunity:  Lincoln, Miami and the American Dream

November 1, 2009 


Adrienne Arsht Performing Arts Center 
Knight Concert Hall
1300 Biscayne Boulevard
Miami, FL 33132

Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., Mayor Carlos Alvarez, Alonzo Mourning, Antonio Mora and Others Reflect on “Lincoln, Miami and the American Dream

Town Hall Event Commemorates Lincoln Bicentennial, Explores Lincoln’s Impact on Miami

MIAMI -- Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez, Alonzo Mourning and CBS-4 Anchorman Antonio Mora joined an esteemed panel of local Miami leaders and more than 1,800 Miami community members, for a Town Hall Meeting entitled “Lincoln, Miami and the American Dream.” The panel discussion, hosted by the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission at the Adrienne Arsht Performing Arts Center of Miami-Dade County, culminated a series of Miami events commemorating Lincoln’s bicentennial.  The event and discussion explored the impact of Lincoln’s life and legacy on Miami today.

“We are delighted to bring the celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s life and legacy to Miami, a city that embraces and celebrates its cultural and ethnic diversity perhaps more than any other American city,” said Eileen Mackevich, executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.  “It’s fitting that we gather in Miami to talk about his life and about the American Dream.  In so many ways, Abraham Lincoln exemplified that dream and, during his life, worked tirelessly to make the American Dream a worthy and attainable pursuit for generations to come.”

Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., author of Lincoln on Race and Slavery, set the stage for the program with a keynote address on Lincoln’s lessons for Miami.  His remarks were followed by an expert panel discussion, moderated by Antonio Mora.  The town hall also featured performances by the New World School of the Arts’ Wind Ensemble and Florida Memorial University’s Ambassador Chorale.   The New World School of the Arts performed a segment of Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait,” with narration by Alonzo Mourning.  And, guests perused Lincoln and Civil War memorabilia from the Norman Braman collection. 

“If Abraham Lincoln visited Miami-Dade County today, I think he would be very proud to see that his legacy of equality among people is alive and well,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez.  “In Miami-Dade County, we find genuine strength in our diversity and our rich cultural heritage.  It’s what sets this community apart from any other I know.  But merely embracing our differences is not enough. We always need to find ways to strengthen communities by bringing people from diverse backgrounds closer together. Tonight’s event accomplished that.”  

Following the town hall, Miami-Dade College hosted a special reception at the Freedom Tower for town hall attendees, which featured music from the Lincoln-era performed by the New World School of the Arts as well as hors d’oeuvres and refreshments inspired by Lincoln White House menus. Lincoln artifacts on loan from the Henry Ford Museum, including a bronze cast of Lincoln’s hand, were also on display during the reception.

The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission Foundation hosted the free public event with the help of several Miami-area organizations and leaders. It is one of eleven Town Hall Meetings being held across the country under the broad theme of “Lincoln’s Legacy: Race, Freedom and Equality of Opportunity.” Inspired by Abraham Lincoln’s efforts to build an equal opportunity society, the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission’s Lincoln Legacy Town Hall Meeting series seeks to build mutual understanding about differing perspectives on race and ethnicity and provide an opportunity to re-examine what it means to be American in the 21st century.       

“This has been a remarkable event on behalf of the lessons of a remarkable man's life,” said David Lawrence Jr., who chaired the organizing committee.  “It speaks so well to Miami that we had the largest crowd -- almost double the size -- of any other of the cities hosting Lincoln bicentennial events."


Panelists included: 

  • Carlos Alvarez, Mayor of Miami-Dade
  • Alberto Carvalho, Superintendent, Miami-Dade Schools
  • Dr. Marvin Dunn, historian, author and professor at Florida International University
  • Alberto Ibarguen, President and CEO, Knight Foundation
  • Cheryl Little, Florida Immigrant and Advocacy Center
  • Gepsie Metellus, Sant La Haitian Neighborhood Center
  • Ruth Shack, former head of the Dade Community Foundation
  • Dr. Darden Pyron, 19th century American history professors, Florida International University
  • Dr. Donald Spivey, University of Miami


Other highlights:

  • Speaker: Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the W.E.B. Dubois Institute for African and African American Research, at Harvard University. He is the editor of the recently published book, “Lincoln on Race & Slavery.”
  • Music: The 60-member Ambassador Chorale of Florida Memorial University and the 60-member orchestra at the New World School of the Arts. Music will be of the Lincoln era. The program will include an excerpt from Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait,” with Alonzo Mourning as the narrator.
  • Memorabilia and ephemera from Abraham Lincoln’s years – part of the collection of Miami philanthropist Norman Braman.
  • Freedom Tower Exhibit - The Henry Ford Museum in Michigan is loaning to Miami Dade College the following items to be exhibited at the Freedom Tower following the Town Hall meeting:
    • Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Nathan Sargent Regarding 1860 Republican Party Platform, June 23, 1859
    • Abraham Lincoln Campaign Medallion, 1860
    • Republican Ballot from Massachusetts for the 1860 Presidential Election
    • Election Ballot, Freeman's Ticket, 1861
    • Stephen Douglas and Herschel V. Johnson Campaign Button, 1860
    • John C. Breckenridge and Joseph Lane Campaign Button, 1860
    • John Bell Campaign Medal, 1860
    • Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin Campaign Button, 1860
    • Life Cast of Abraham Lincoln's Right Hand
    • Book My Bondage and My Freedom, by Frederick Douglass

The ALBC Town Hall Series is made possible with support from the Fetzer Institute.

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