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Nationwide Lincoln Bicentennial Celebrations




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David Early

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Celebrating Lincoln’s 200th Birthday, Wherever You Are


Washington – There’s so much going on in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth that fans of America’s 16th president might be forgiven for thinking that the nation’s capital will have a monopoly on all things Lincoln come Thursday, February 12, 2009.

In Washington, D.C., the national Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission has planned a series of events.  The day begins with the national wreath-laying ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial.  President Obama has been invited to speak, and Michael Feinstein will sing the national anthem accompanied by the U.S. Marine Corps Band, and also his rendition of lyrics written for him by poet Maya Angelou especially for the occasion.  Poet Nikki Giovanni will recite from her own new work for the Bicentennial. A Congressional Tribute to Lincoln follows later in the morning at the U.S. Capitol, and the Library of Congress’s Bicentennial exhibit, With Malice Toward None opens to the public.  A National Teach-In, in cooperation with The History Channel and originating from the National Archives, will be Webcast live featuring Lincoln experts Doris Kearns Goodwin, Harold Holzer and Matthew Pinsker.

In addition, numerous museums and other organizations across the city have exhibits and banquets and lectures honoring Lincoln’s 200th birthday.

From sea to shining sea, though, states, cities, universities, schools, churches, libraries, civic and cultural organizations have planned hundreds of tributes to the sixteenth president – on February 12th and throughout the year.

At Ewa Elementary School in Ewa Beach, Hawaii, students will drape leis around the neck of a Lincoln statue, keeping alive a tradition dating from 1944.  Third graders will sing the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and the 6th graders will recite the Gettysburg Address.  However, it seems that this year the kindergarten is likely to steal the show:  the children have adapted the Elton John song, “Don’t Go Breaking my Heart,” to honor Lincoln with a new verse, “Don’t you forget about him.”

North Dakota State University in Fargo, for example, has scheduled a performance of Herbert Mitgang’s Mr. Lincoln for that evening.  NDSU alumnus Mark Neukom will perform the one-man show.

And in a somewhat warmer climate, the Orange County Regional History Center in Orlando, Fla., which is currently featuring an exhibit on Lincoln’s life, legacy and ties to Florida, plans a blow-out birthday party on the 12th, complete with a Lincoln look-alike contest.

Over in Waco, Texas, Baylor University will celebrate the day with an opening reception at the W. R. Poage Legislative Library Exhibit Hall for “With Malice Toward None: An Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition” showcasing the collection of Bob Willard, a University Park, Md., resident, who has been collecting Lincolniana for 50 years.

The Indiana Supreme Court and the Indiana State Bar Association have invited schools across the state, where Lincoln lived for 14 years from 1814-1830, to think about the 16th president’s ideas about citizenship and the law by inviting into their classrooms a volunteer lawyer.  At the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Lincoln City, Ind., Dr. James Madison will be the featured speaker at the annual Lincoln Day program, which will include special music by the red Bank Reunion Band and the traditional pilgrimage to the gravesite of Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln.

And what about that other Washington? In conjunction with the city of Spokane’s Lincoln Festival, the Chase Gallery there is presenting "A House Divided: The Legacy of Lincoln," a group art exhibition that will run through Feb. 27. The Spokane Symphony has commissioned Michael Daugherty to compose “Letters From Lincoln,” which will have its world premier with the symphony and baritone Thomas Hampson on Feb. 28.

But let’s not forget the Midwest’s major Lincoln hot spot: Springfield, Ill. On the evening of Feb.12th a birthday bash will be held in the Grand Ballroom of the Crowne Plaza Hotel, and a Bicentennial Period Ball, with music by the 10th Cavalry Regiment Band, is scheduled for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum Plaza.

Earlier in the day, The George L. Painter Lincoln Lectures will feature Dan Guillory, Kent Gramm and Wayne Temple discussing "The Literary Lincoln" at the Lincoln Home National Historic Site.

At the Lincoln birthplace in Hodgenville, Ky., the first of four new Lincoln penny designs will be released into circulation during a ceremony hosted by the National Park Service and the U.S. Mint. Later in the day, the NPS will dedicate the restored Lincoln boyhood cabin at the Knob Creek Farm near Hodgenville.

In the Northeast, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has issued a proclamation declaring February Abraham Lincoln Month, while in Vermont, Gov. Jim Douglas has proclaimed that at 2:12 p.m. bells across the state – at churches, town halls, schools, fire stations, and any other place with a bell – will ring for one minute.

Clearly, one doesn’t have to live in Washington, D.C., or Springfield, Ill., to join in the celebrations marking Abraham Lincoln’s bicentennial birthday.  A calendar of events across the country is regularly updated on the ALBC’s Web site – www.abrahamlincoln200.org -- and the Commission’s newly published collector’s magazine, A New Birth of Freedom, highlights many programs happening in the states.  For more information about the magazine, contact the ALBC.


About the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission

Congress established the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission to plan the nation’s celebration of the 16th president’s 200th birthday in 2009.  The Commission works to engage the broadest range of individuals and groups in the commemoration.  Through education programs, public forums, and the arts, the Commission provides an opportunity to re-examine Lincoln’s legacy in our 21st century democracy.  Its members, who are appointed by the president and congressional leaders, include political leaders, jurists, historians, and collectors.  The ALBC has scheduled a number of events in Washington on Feb. 12, and around the country throughout 2009.  For more information, please visit www.abrahamlincoln200.org.