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Sam Waterston, Joan Allen, NEA Chairman to Salute Lincoln’s 200th Birthday

Washington – Abraham Lincoln – at various points in his life – was a shopkeeper, surveyor, lawyer, legislator and politician.  However, he was always a poet.

On September 22, the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Poetry Foundation, will jointly sponsor Rise Up and Hear: An Evening of Poetry Honoring Abraham Lincoln’s Legacy in Poetry in the Sidney R. Yates Auditorium at the Department of the Interior in Washington, DC.

Actors Joan Allen and Sam Waterston will join John Barr, poet and president of the Poetry Foundation; Poetry Out Loud national champion Shawntay Henry; former U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky; and poet Kevin Young, reading selections from Shakespeare, Carl Sandburg, Walt Whitman, and others.  The evening will be complete with readings of Lincoln’s own poetic words.  NEA Chairman Dana Gioia, himself a critically acclaimed poet, will serve as the host for the evening.

"Abraham Lincoln's standing as one of our country's greatest presidents is undisputed,” said Gioia. “A great lover of poetry, it is not surprising that Lincoln's legacy has inspired our nation's finest poetic voices. The NEA is delighted to partner with the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and the Poetry Foundation to present this evening of poetry in celebration of this great man, 'gentle, plain, just, and resolute.'"

“The power of collaboration is evident in this event,” said Eileen Mackevich, ALBC executive director.  “We are pleased to bring together great institutions and talents to honor Lincoln in the way he would want to be honored.  From Shawntay Henry of the Virgin Islands to Joan Allen, one of our great actresses, all are united in appreciation of this man who loved and understood the power of words.”

According to Lincoln historian and ALBC Co-Chair Harold Holzer, Lincoln was a great advocate of poetry.

“Whether in the tragic soliloquies of Shakespeare or the comic lyrics of Robert Burns, Lincoln learned economy of language and nobility of thought from the great poets, and infused his own political writing with a poet’s perspective,” Holzer said.  “This remarkable literary evening recalls with appreciation both the timeless gift of poetry and of Lincoln’s own inspiring life.”

Rise Up and Hear will celebrate Lincoln the poet and Lincoln the muse.

“What a unique event to celebrate the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), ALBC co-chair.  “One cannot read Lincoln’s greatest speeches without feeling that he easily crossed that line between prose and poetry.  His Gettysburg Address and its well chosen language stirs our imagination with words – “of the people by the people, for the people” – that bring a meaning, sound and rhythm surpassing ordinary fare.  Rise Up and Hear captures the spirit of a true American hero whose life still inspires so many Americans.”


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.  Town hall meetings, concerts, museum exhibits, theatrical productions, lectures, historical re-enactments, and other programs are being planned around the country.  The Commission’s members, who are appointed by the president and congressional leaders, include political leaders, jurists, historians, and collectors.  For more information, please visit www.abrahamlincoln200.org.


The National Endowment for the Arts

The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established, bringing the arts to all Americans, and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Arts Endowment is the nation's largest annual funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases. For more information, please visit www.arts.gov.


The Poetry Foundation

The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. For more information on the Poetry Foundation, please visit www.poetryfoundation.org.