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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.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Remarks from Cleveland!

Today, we drove from Pittsburgh up to Hudson, Ohio. Our evening program is at the Happy Days Lodge at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. About 250 attended the program. National Park Service staff at Cuyahoga Valley National Park organized the event. Karen Kopchak did a great job of setting up the event and serving as the emcee for the night. Civilian Conservation Corps workers built the Happy Days Lodge in the 1930s. It’s a great old building, with a vaulted ceiling in the main hall.

Today we arrived in time to eat lunch at the “Winking Lizard.” Tim Good used to work at Cuyahoga Valley National Park, so he knows the area quite well. We had a great lunch, talking about the upcoming programs and about the park here. Tim says that they park has many fascinating features to it—a railroad, historic buildings, agriculture, etc. A century-and-a-half ago, the president-elect arrived in Cleveland, Ohio, at about 4:30 pm. At the train depot Lincoln boarded a carriage in a snow storm to ride in a procession to the Weddell House. From a balcony looking out to “a sea of faces,” Lincoln decided to speak about his pledge to leave slavery alone—in the south, where it already existed:

We have been marching about two miles through snow, rain and deep mud. The large numbers that have turned out under these circumstances testify that you are in earnest about something or other. What is happening now will not hurt those who are farther away from here. Have they not all their rights now as they ever have had? Do they not have their fugitive slaves returned now as ever? Have they not the same constitution that they have lived under for seventy odd years? Have they not a position as citizens of this common country, and have we any power to change that position? What then is the matter with them? Why all this excitement? Why all these complaints? As I said before, this crisis is all artificial. It has no foundation in facts. If all do not join now to save the good old ship of the Union this voyage, nobody will have a chance to pilot her on another voyage.

Invariably, at each of our stops, we seem to run into “Local Lincolns.” These are men who portray our 16th president. They seem to be sincere, good men, who want people to better understand who Mr. Lincoln was and what he did to preserve the Union. There were two “Local Lincolns” at the event this evening at the Happy Days Lodge.

One of the interesting people we met at the Happy Days Lodge was a woman who first met Fritz Klein ten years ago. He inspired her to do living history and she became a reenactor. They posed for a photograph tonight—and they were holding a photograph of them together taken ten years ago, which she had brought with her. I guess you could say that we’ve discovered that Abraham Lincoln has groupies—and so does Fritz Klein!

The other night a humorous incident occurred. We were checking into a hotel when Fritz gave the hotel clerk at the front desk his credit card. But the clerk said, “I need to see a photo ID.” Fritz, unfortunately, had left his driver’s license in the vehicle. Thinking quickly, Fritz asked Spirit for a five-dollar bill. Fritz then got the attention of the hotel clerk and held up the bill by his face. The clerk looked up and laughed. The clerk then waived the need for Fritz to produce photo ID.

As an aside for the things we deal with while we’re on the road, my eye glasses are about to fall apart at the bridge (nosepiece). A hotel worker back in Columbus placed some clear packing tape on the glasses. But I fear that it may not hold out. In Macedonia, Ohio, I went to Wal-Mart vision center to get fitted for contact lenses. I have worn contacts in the past, but it has been awhile. The optometrist was very nice and helpful. So now I’m set up with contact lenses for the rest of the trip (and my eye glasses are still holding up, too).

For our standard program, Spirit speaks for about five minutes while introducing Fritz as President-elect Abraham Lincoln. Then Fritz will usually start with the words Lincoln actually spoke at that city 150 years ago. But Lincoln’s remarks were often so short that they wouldn’t make much of a program. So Fritz has about a 30-minute speech that is a patchwork of all of Lincoln’s speeches during his inaugural journey. It’s very dramatic. The audience is often quite still when Mr. Lincoln is speaking.

There are some lines, though, that seem to get smiles and chuckles each time. For instance, in Pittsburgh in 1861, Lincoln said, “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.” (This is the line that brings a reaction from the audience. I guess they think the phrase “keep cool” sounds more like a modern term.) After the “keep cool” line, Lincoln continued, “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.”

by Dave Schafer, Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site (NHS)

Day Five - February 15, 2011
Pittsburgh, PA to Cleveland, OH

Supt. Tim Good, Ulysses S. Grant NHS, St. Louis, MO
Park Ranger Spirit Trickey, Central High School NHS, Little Rock, Ark.
Richard F. “Fritz” Klein, nationally renowned Lincoln presenter, Springfield, IL.

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