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Bicentennial Commission Launches Web Site




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David Early

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Commission Launches Web Site, Seeks Public Input
for Ways to Commemorate 200th Anniversary of Lincoln's Birth

SPRINGIELD, IL - In the House of Representatives at the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois, where Abraham Lincoln gave his historic "House Divided" speech, the U. S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission today laid out its mission and asked Americans to help develop fitting and compelling ways to commemorate Lincoln's legacy on the 200th anniversary of his birth.

The Commission was established by Congress last year to study, plan and recommend to Congress the most appropriate government activities to be carried out to honor Abraham Lincoln leading up to and during his bicentennial year in 2009. As a first step in its planning process, the Commission today launched a Web site, www.lincolnbicentennial.gov. Among other historic and educational features, the site is designed to solicit ideas from across the country on the best ways to preserve, showcase and celebrate Lincoln's legacy.

Co-chairing the Commission are U.S. Senator Richard Durbin, U.S. Representative Ray LaHood, and Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer.

"Every American can benefit from learning about Abraham Lincoln's life, from his humble beginnings to his great courage and leadership as President during a very trying period in history," said Senator Durbin. "We hope all Americans will participate in this historic project that will educate future generations about Lincoln's contributions."

The Senator and his co-chairs laid out the overall mission of the Commission. Along with commemorative events and initiatives, the Commission will consider other activities of lasting value such as publications and video productions; the minting of an Abraham Lincoln bicentennial penny; the possible issuance of a bicentennial postage stamp; activity surrounding the Lincoln Memorial; and the acquisition and preservation of artifacts associated with Lincoln.

The Web site contains historical and biographical information as well as extensive links to other Lincoln-related Web sites. It features historical photos and a timeline of Lincoln's milestone achievements. The site will eventually feature an interactive map with historical photos depicting locations around the country that were significant in Lincoln's life.

"The Web site is an important first initiative as it will help mobilize and energize national and international Lincoln scholars and organizations, while also reaching out to interested citizens, including public officials, high school and college students, educators, librarians, minority constituencies and other civic and community leaders and organizations," said Congressman Ray LaHood.

The Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield kicked off the virtual suggestion box by submitting the first online idea. Among other thoughts, the Lincoln Home suggested a traveling exhibit that could perhaps follow Lincoln's inaugural route by rail from Springfield to Washington, D.C. They also proposed that the Commission Web site house virtual lesson plans and tours of Lincoln sites, museums and libraries.

According to Norman D. Hellmers, Superintendent of the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, "The Commission's Web site could provide unrestricted access to research materials, documents, photographs, and other primary materials via the Web, which students of all ages could use for their own research projects. The celebration of Abraham Lincoln in 2009 is the starting point for a larger and farther-reaching program to promote Lincoln's democratic ideals to the world."

The Commission has 15 members who were appointed by the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives based on their knowledge and study of Lincoln and their dedication to educating others about Lincoln and his time. In addition, two of the members are U.S. Senators and two are from the U.S. House of Representatives from states where Lincoln lived, practiced law and served in the legislature.

Along with the co-chairs, members of the Commission include: Dr. Jean T. Bandler, professor emeritus of social work at New York University; Dr. Darrell E. Bigham, professor of history at the University of Southern Indiana; Dr. Gabor S. Boritt, director of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College; U.S. Senator Jim Bunning, Kentucky; Joan L. Flinspach, president and CEO of the Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne, Indiana; Dr. James O. Horton, the Benjamin Banneker Professor of American Civilization and History at George Washington University; U.S. Representative David Phelps, Illinois; Lura Lynn Ryan, Illinois' First Lady; Louise Taper, Lincoln collector; Former Illinois Governor James R. Thompson; Judge Tommy Turner of LaRue County, Kentucky; and The Honorable Frank Williams, chief justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

"It is an honor to be among these distinguished Americans, and a privilege to develop, with Americans all over the country, the most significant ways that we can honor a man who did so much to preserve, articulate and symbolize freedom and democracy in this country," said Harold Holzer. "Abraham Lincoln embodied the best of American leadership and courage. At a time of such renewed patriotism in this country, his legacy should live on in bold, inspiring and accessible ways."

Abraham Lincoln frequented the Old State Capitol from 1839 until he departed in 1861 to assume the Presidency. It was the site of several important Lincoln speeches, including the 1858 "House Divided" address, which opened his unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate against Stephen A. Douglas. The "Governor's Room" served as Lincoln's informal campaign headquarters during the 1860 presidential election. In 1865, citizens paid their last respects to the assassinated President at this site before final services at Oak Ridge Cemetery.