The Journey begins...

My photo
The National Park Service is sponsoring programming that will commemorate the 150 anniversary of President-elect Abraham Lincoln's trip from Springfield, Illinois to Washington, DC, on February 11-23, 2011.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Day Four - February 14, 2011

Columbus, OH to Pittsburgh, PA

While thinking about the media and getting the word out about our programs, I began to think about how we communicate. What methods do we use to spread our messages? How do political leaders communicate their messages? What happens when the tools of mass communication are turned around toward politicians and celebrities?

Fame changes lives. In our world today, celebrities and politicians try to guard their privacy. Cameras, though, record nearly everything. Technology can send images around the world in an instant. Mass communication via television, the internet, twitter, facebook, cell phones, etc., has changed the way we keep up-to-date with one another.

Lincoln speaks at the Ohio Statehouse,
But the world of 1861 was quite different. To be sure, the telegraph had transformed communications in the country. Messages could be quickly transmitted with this new technology. Most Americans, however, got their in-depth news through the newspapers.

And if you wanted to see a President of the United States (or president-elect) you had to seek him out. Photographs were reproduced as lithographs for newspapers. So people knew what the president looked like. There was no other way to hear his voice, however, other than seeing him in person.

In Cincinnati 150 years ago, for instance, the Lincoln family stayed in a fine hotel, the Burnet House. But even in the hotel the president-elect could not escape the curious and adoring crowds. Mr. Lincoln must have already felt like public property. Waves of admirers pressed around him. According to one account at the time, people were “throwing their arms around him, patting him on the back, and almost wrenching his arm off.” Another wrote that each man who greeted Lincoln believed it was “his duty to shake ‘Old Abe’s’ hand, as if it were a pump-handle.”

This morning, we drove to Indian Trail Elementary School in Canal Winchester, Ohio. The program was at 9:30 am. Beverly Downing is the wonderful principal there. She greeted us warmly at the front door. Beth Moore, a second grade teacher, was our contact. She had emailed Tim Good about setting up the program.

About 500 students, from grades one through four, gathered on the floor of the lunchroom/auditorium. Spirit Trickey spoke first. She’s wonderful with children. She asked them about her uniform. What was she? One child said a police officer another said something about “jungle” (I didn’t catch the words exactly—but I think the student was equating the uniform to some sort of wilderness ranger/game warden). The third student said, “park ranger.” Spirit got the students excited about meeting President Abraham Lincoln. So they cheered wildly when Fritz came through the curtains on the stage. Fritz’s program for the younger audience was quite different from our other programs. He told stories of Lincoln’s boyhood. In one, Lincoln returned a water-damaged book to a neighbor. To pay for the damage, Lincoln went to the farmer for several visits to do chores and other labor. The man who had loaned the book was at first upset, but seeing the effort of young Abraham, decided he would still loan books to Lincoln.

Fritz talked with the students about the importance of getting a good education, of never giving up, of achieving your dream, of treating people the way you want to be treated. Fritz is so animated and engaging as a speaker. The students kept their attention on him.Toward the end of the program, Fritz didn’t shy away from the serious topics of secession and slavery. He described these topics in words that children can understand. Like Lincoln 150 years ago, we proceeded from Columbus, OH, to Pittsburgh, PA. Lincoln’s train was pelted with rain most of the way between the two cities. Keeping in mind our journey in Lincoln’s footsteps, a cold drizzle fell on us part of the time in Pittsburgh.

Our evening event was held in the marvelous Soldiers and Sailors Museum. Built in honor of the areas Civil War veterans, the building has wonderful exhibits with fascinating artifacts that document the military service of area veterans throughout history.In the main hall, the complete Gettysburg Address is engraved on a large wall behind the stage. A balcony encircles three sides of the hall, which has a high ceiling. It’s a great venue!

Spirit and Fritz delivered excellent presentations once again. When Spirit said in her introduction that she was the daughter of one of the Little Rock Nine, you could see the audience react with nods and smiles. Fritz again quoted what Lincoln said 150 years ago. In Pittsburgh, Lincoln tried to reassure his listeners that the crisis of secession was an artificial one and that everyone should just calm down. “Notwithstanding the troubles across the river, there really is no crisis, springing from anything in the government itself. My advice, then, under such circumstances, is to keep cool. If the great American people will only keep their temper, on both sides of the line, the troubles will come to an end, and the question which now distracts the country will be settled just as surely as all other difficulties of like character which have originated in this government have been adjusted.”

About 120 people attended the program. The presentation included a spirited question and answer session with Mr. Lincoln (and Mr. Klein). Because it was Valentine’s Day, we wondered what the turn-out would be. After the program, I talked with a father and his four sons. It turns out, his wife was also there (she had stepped away for the moment). He convinced her that going to a program about Abraham Lincoln would be a great thing to do on Valentine’s Day! She agreed. The father said that they go to Lincoln sites when they can. In fact, one of the boys was wearing a Lincoln hat and beard that he got on a family vacation to Springfield, Illinois.

By Dave Schafer

1 comment:

  1. ISO video and still photographs from the Pittsburgh, PA event. I was there and asked Klein what Lincoln had taught him. After collecting his thoughts, Klein discussed how Lincoln had taught him to forgive individuals. I'd like to have show that segment to the students that I teach. Also, I brought the Wide Awake Lincoln banner.

    Rea Andrew Redd []