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Former Congressmen Kemp and Gray to Co-Chair Lincoln Bicentennial Cabinet




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WASHINGTON – Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Jack Kemp and William H. Gray, former head of the United Negro College Fund, will co-chair the Lincoln Bicentennial Cabinet, a group formed by the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission to support the Commission’s public-private efforts, the Commission’s co-chairs announced today.

Kemp and Gray have been friends since serving together in Congress in the 1970s and ‘80s.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL), and Harold Holzer, the ALBC’s co-chairs jointly announced the appointments today.

“I want to congratulate Bill Gray and Jack Kemp on their selection as co-chairs to the Lincoln Bicentennial Cabinet,” said Durbin.  “I served with them in Congress and I can say with confidence that the Commission chose two very well-respected leaders.  I look forward to working with them as we continue to honor Abraham Lincoln’s legacy.”

Congress established the ALBC on the premise that it would function as a public-private partnership. Congress has appropriated funds to support the Commission’s administration.  Private funding is necessary, however, to produce the many programs and events and materials planned by the Commission. 

The Commission organized the Lincoln Bicentennial Cabinet to ensure the success of this public-private partnership.  The Cabinet works to create and expand civic and cultural partnerships and build connections with corporate, civic, and cultural leaders across the country that will lead to a better understanding of Lincoln’s legacy.

“Jack Kemp and Bill Gray are both leading public intellectuals who will contribute substantively to the Commission’s programs exploring Lincoln’s continuing legacy,” said LaHood.  “They will be helpful in building important relationships with leaders in many fields. We are fortunate and honored by their willingness to join with us.”

Jack Kemp has had a long and distinguished career in politics, public affairs and professional sports.  After representing Buffalo, NY, in the U.S. House of Representatives for 18 years, Kemp served as secretary of Housing and Urban Development during the administration of President George H.W. Bush.  In 1996, he was the Republican party’s vice presidential nominee.  He was a co-founder of the grassroots advocacy group Empower America in 1993, and is currently the chairman of Kemp Partners, a strategic consulting firm he founded in 2002.  Before his election to Congress in 1970, Kemp played quarterback for several professional football teams for 13 years, leading the Buffalo Bills to the American Football League championship in 1964 and 1965. 

“Abraham Lincoln has had a tremendous influence on my life and the decisions I’ve made over the years as a congressman, cabinet secretary, and public policy leader,” said Kemp.  “I keep several busts and pictures of Lincoln in my office for inspiration. I firmly believe Abraham Lincoln continues to be an inspiring figure for leaders in every part of the world.  I’m eager to take on the challenges that lie ahead, particularly with my friend and co-chair Bill Gray.”

William H. Gray III represented Philadelphia in the U. S. House of Representatives for 13 years, rising through the ranks to become the first African American to chair both the powerful House Budget Committee and the Democratic Caucus, and was also the first to serve as House Majority Whip.  He resigned his seat in Congress in 1991 to become president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, which in 13 years he led to new fund-raising records, raising $2.3 billion for historically black colleges and universities and to help minority students gain a college education. He is currently chairman of the Amani Group, a business and education advisory group.  An ordained minister, he was the pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia for 35 years, where his father and grandfather served before him.

“Since I was a young man I’ve had an interest in the Civil War,” said Gray.  As a senior at Franklin and Marshall College, he wrote his honors thesis on the recruitment of black soldiers under Lincoln. “I am honored the Commissioners asked me to take on this important role ensuring the success of the Lincoln Bicentennial.  It will be a labor of love, and I look forward to working with my friend Jack Kemp again.”

“The Commission has set for itself some very ambitious goals – education initiatives, positive contributions to the ongoing conversation about race and equality, museum exhibits and original programs in music, drama, and poetry in addition to major public events,” said Holzer.  “We are grateful to have Bill Gray and Jack Kemp at the helm of the Bicentennial Cabinet”

The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission was established by Congress to plan educational, public, and legacy events to mark the 16th president’s 200th birthday in 2009.  Its members, who are appointed by the president and congressional leaders, include political leaders, jurists, historians, and collectors.  The ALBC aims to renew Americans’ appreciation of Lincoln’s ideals of freedom, equality and opportunity, and to encourage all people to “live the legacy.”

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