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Lincoln Town Halls Strive for 16th President's Ideals




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WASHINGTON – To mark the 200th anniversary of the 16th president’s birth, the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission has issued a call to action to all Americans: participate in the Bicentennial’s town hall meetings on race, freedom, and equality of opportunity in 2008 and 2009; advance Lincoln’s ideals; build a more perfect union.

The ALBC convened a meeting on Tuesday, July 22, in Washington, to plan the town halls.  The meeting was co-sponsored by the Fetzer Institute of Kalamazoo, Mich.. 

More than 30 leaders from the fields of government and politics, foundations, civics, journalism, arts, humanities, and education met at Washington’s Woodrow Wilson Center to outline the scope and vision for the national town halls.  Ten cities will be selected to host the town halls based on their ability to sustain on-going collaboration.

Among those who attended the meeting were U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL), chairman of the ALBC’s town hall initiative; U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL), ALBC co-chair; former HUD Secretary Jack Kemp; William H. Gray III, former congressman and president of the United Negro College Fund; and Jim O’Shea, former managing editor of the Los Angeles Times.  University of Chicago historians Charles Branham and Adam Green moderated the planning meeting.

Race is often the hidden discussion within groups and rarely among groups.  Through sustained dialogue, groups often discover commonalities.  Constructive dialogue, therefore, is the foremost goal of the town halls.

Jackson said the ALBC’s town halls, which will be an ongoing initiative beginning in 2008, will build on earlier efforts like the 1968 Kerner Commission report and President Clinton’s Initiative on Race.

“We intend Lincoln’s Bicentennial and these town halls to spark ‘a new birth of freedom,’” Jackson said.

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 the public 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. 

Fetzer Institute
The Fetzer Institute, based in Kalamazoo, Michigan, works with works with global leaders, organizations, and individuals to bring the power of love and forgiveness to the center of individual, community, and organizational life. www.fetzer.org 

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