Showing posts with label Lincoln. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lincoln. Show all posts

Friday, December 28, 2012

Why the Obama Presidential Library should be built in Springfield, Illinois

President Obama taking the oath of office
I notice the race is on for the Obama Presidential Library. The two cities mentioned as possible sites are Chicago and Honolulu. This astonishes me, as I find the obvious choice to be Springfield, Illinois.
Obama campaign poster
As a community, Springfield had an outsized influence on Obama as he spent his early legislative days there in the Illinois legislature. Why did it have such an influence? Because Springfield has excelled at passing on the message of the Lincoln Presidency to all humanity, even, as it turns out, to future Presidents.
The old
Illinois State Capitol
Obama deeply identifies with Lincoln and used several of Lincoln's signature moves prior to and in his first term: speaking on the steps of the Illinois State Capitol, a long slow train ride to Inauguration, and assembling a Team of Rivals. As Obama conducted his State legislative business in Springfield, Lincoln's words, example, and sites were everywhere in the city for him to identify with, learn from and absorb. Obama even used a term from the Gettysburg address as his first Inauguration theme: "a new birth of freedom."
The Obama family
Placing the library in Springfield would be a gigantic economic boost to Southern Illinois. Chicago is already thriving and doesn't need the Obama Presidential Library to continue thriving. I appreciate that the current Mayor there has some pull, but will the Chicago mayor 100 years from now care as much? Will promoting the Obama Presidential Library and Museum be on the top of that mayor's to-do list?

Honolulu might seem an obvious place since Obama's boyhood was there. However, if it is placed there it ensures that the people who will get to see it are upper-income, older Americans who can afford a Hawaiian vacation plus Japanese tourists on holiday. How would that change the world any? I can't help but think that the young person who could most use the inspiration of the Obama legacy, wouldn't get to see it.

That's why the Obama Presidential Library should be placed in Springfield, Illinois. Think of the savings to education budgets if school children can take in the Lincoln Presidential library and Museum and the Obama library in the same field trip.
The famous hug
after winning a second term
Foreign visitors who come to learn about one of our Presidents who worked to heal a divided nation,  would learn about two of our Presidents who worked to heal a divided nation. An Obama Presidential Library and Museum would probably be one of the most important economic drivers of Springfield as a city, even 100 years from now.

Springfield has a lower cost structure for a visit and its slow Southern pace makes for a more reflective experience, plus it places the Obama presidency in the context of wider American history. Tourists can afford to spend more days there so they can take in both the Obama library and museum. If Obama's library and museum are placed in Chicago, people will give one of those two new buildings an afternoon of their time and that's that. Back to business.
Obama in Prague
speaking on disarmament
I'm thinking about the experience created by this placement not only as a library professional, but as a consumer of the experience these destinations create. Between us, my family and I have visited the Hoover, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan Libraries. On my last trip back to America, my family and I made a special trip to Little Rock just to take in the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library. One of the things that made the Clinton Library experience work so well as an education about American history is that it was partnered with the experience and history of the Little Rock Nine.
Placing the Obama Presidential Library in context with Lincoln's presidency is a powerful history lesson in and of itself. But the most important reason the Obama Presidential Library should be in Springfield, Illinois is the message it sends to people yet unborn.

This is what makes the historical context in Springfield perfect for Obama's legacy. Springfield was the scene of a white riot in 1908 so horrible that the NAACP was formed out of the complete despair that resulted from the event. White Springfield has come to terms with this event and is not in denial. The Mayor officially apologized on behalf of the city. A walking tour has been created that explains what happened. It would not be to Springfield's shame if this story was more widely known around the world, it would be their success story.

Why? Because out of that despair, trying to pick up the pieces after a devastating hate crime, humanity organized. They worked to create a better future by organizing themselves into an association (the NAACP). These citizens had no idea what would result from that work. Out of that community organizing and the changes that resulted in society because of it, 100 years later, there was an almost unimaginable outcome: the citizens of the United States of America elected a black President.

Humanity: there is nothing you can't do if you're willing to come together and work for it. That's the astonishing, hopeful message an Obama Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois could send the citizens of the world.

To put it in President's Obama's words: "We are here because enough people ignored the voices who told them the world could not change."

You might be interested in reading more about my visit to Springfield, Illinois. Touring Springfield, Illinois was one of the things I most wanted to do before becoming an "Empty Nest Expat."

Entering the Land of Lincoln

What Inspires Stories?

The Springfield Race Riots of 1908

A living tribute to Abraham Lincoln

A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

America's Finest Example of Prairie School Architecture

Route 66 Road Food

How broke is Illinois?

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

More Patriotism: In Love with Abe Lincoln

Ben Franklin said after America declared her independence: "you have a Republic, if you can keep it." The last eight years we came pretty close to internally losing our way as a country, rather than someone taking it away from us.

Bad leadership is not the norm in America. I don't know why, but my country has been blessed with some really extraordinary, humble men leading us that inspire love. Maybe I'm a little homesick for the known. Or maybe it's knowing that Lincoln inspires my new president too. Or maybe it's just I appreciate where this writer is coming from after I spent four days learning about Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois last year. This beautiful tribute to Abe Lincoln in word and pictures that I've linked to in the title moves me so, I wanted to share it.

Friday, January 30, 2009

You Could Feel Something Like This Coming

Today the Governor of my former state of Illinois was thrown out of office without a single legislator rising to defend him. Having spent four days in Springfield, Illinois in October seeing the Lincoln sites that inspire so many Americans (including our new President), I could feel that the situation back then wasn't sustainable. He didn't have a friend left before the news came out about the Senate seat he felt was "golden."

Click on the title to read my post from back then. If you're interested in reading about the Lincoln sites that inspired Obama, please click on the Lincoln label.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

Lincoln's words are everywhere in Springfield. It's easy to learn much of them just walking the sites. This is the old State Capitol where Lincoln gave his famous U.S. Senate nomination acceptance. The speech is referred to as "A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand." It's most famous passage:

"A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.
It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South."
This is also the exact spot where Senator Barack Obama
chose to announce his candidacy
for the Presidency of the United States of America
and where he came back to introduce
his new running mate Senator Joe Biden.
It's so fun to hear the locals talk about those two days.

All the locals seemed surprise when I suggested
that the future Obama Presidential Library
would be housed in Springfield.
Heck, if I was the Mayor, I'd already have the lots picked out!

I love the symbolism of Senator Obama
announcing here. Like Lincoln, Senator Obama
is a healer and a uniter, something
this country needs after eight years of polarization.

Lincoln lived a very pedestrian life - his office was immediately
across from the capitol building
and he walked home every night to his house a couple blocks away.

A tourist reincarnation?

This is the Secretary of State's office
in the old capitol. The idea of our current
dynamic and beloved Secretary of State,
Jessie White,
operating in this sedate environment
gave me the giggles-
Call me a complete history geek!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A living tribute to Abraham Lincoln

One of the beautiful ways Abraham Lincoln has been memorialized in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois is through the Lincoln Memorial Garden. In 1936, this tract of land was empty pasture next to Lake Springfield. Legendary Danish-American landscape architect Jens Jensen was chosen to create this incredible tribute in native plants from the states Lincoln inhabited.

What else would surround the entire garden
but a split rail fence-
honoring Lincoln's legend as a logsplitter

Garden Clubs across America
sponsored dozens of park benches
featuring Lincoln's wisdom

I spent an entire morning exploring the six miles
of woodland and prairie Jensen created -
it seemed like five minutes

Jens Jensen loved to create woodland council rings
in all of his work

Can't you imagine sprites and pixies
entering the rings from all sides of the forest?

The circles are often used for
weddings, storytelling, nature programs, even turtle races!

Beautiful Midwestern tall-grass prairie
in the morning sun

The garden was in the middle of a costume change
from summer to fall when I visited
Mushrooms and tree seed pods were every where.
Other amazing times to visit:
in the spring when the dogwoods and crabapples
are blooming, when the fall leaves are out,
when the maple trees are tapped for syrup.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Springfield Race Riots of 1908

When I first drove into Springfield, I was shocked to see all kinds of signs about the Springfield Race Riots of 1908. What the heck was that about? There is a walking tour of spots detailing what happened over two awful days but there also happened to be an outstanding temporary exhibit at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library about the whole traumatic episode.

These episodes always seem to have the same theme
Two weeks later she admitted she made it all up

During two hot and humid days in August of 1908, some of the white population of Springfield went on a rampage and terrorized the African-American population. It all started when a white woman accused an African-American man of raping her. Two black men were held in the county jail for crimes against whites including this one. A large white crowd assembled outside the jail, wanting to take matters into their own hands, chanting for vigilante justice.

The police got the two men out of there immediately. When the angry mob figured out they had been tricked, and the prisoners had been spirited out, they went on an ugly, destructive rampage that lasted over a couple days. It didn't end until the Governor called in the National Guard.

The nation was shocked something like this could happen
in Lincoln's Springfield
The skill with which this exhibit was put together is astounding. It starts off with a proclamation from the current mayor that includes an acknowledgment of the events that took place 100 years ago and an apology. Each panel then explains exactly what the white mob did. Teachers are warned about exercising caution before exposing children to the exhibit.

Despite the incredibly sensational nature of what is shared, I did not find the exhibit induced "white guilt." I found it to instead produce "white growth." There's something about the quiet explanation of each cruel act that is like hearing someone's wrongs and really processing it and feeling it. I wasn't even there and it was 100 years ago, but I could feel some of my own denial cut through like a hot knife through butter by the presentation. I wish I could drag this fantastic explanation of history to some local malls. It needs to expand it's reach beyond those who would come into a library.

This form of hate may be under glass now
but there are always new forms of hate
for us to guard against

If this could happen in Lincoln's Springfield, activists at the time believed it could happen anywhere. The Springfield Race Riots of 1908 led to the formation of the National Association of Colored People, an organization that has been incredibly effective at curbing these abuses.

You might be interested in these posts:

Why the Obama Presidential Library needs to be in
Springfield, Illinois

A near spiritual experience at Central High School in
Little Rock, Arkansas

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What Inspires Stories?

One of the objections I kept hearing about the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library (across the street from the Museum) is that there's nothing to see there. It's true that the library is a working research library and the staff are busy taking care of historians and researchers working on their projects. Personally, I wanted to browse the stacks but they're closed to the general public!

If Lincoln has garnered more books about him than anyone else in the world, save Jesus Christ, I imagine a terrific way volunteers or staff there could infect people with a passion for primary documents ("why do we save this old stuff anyway?") is to give a walking tour of some of the neat stuff in the collection.

For example, one book about Lincoln that is beloved by Lincoln lovers is "Team of Rivals" by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. What are the interesting primary documents she used to assemble her story? What a terrific way to share with people, especially young adults, how a well-researched book is put together. Such a tour could inspire a few books from the next generation.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Entering the Land of Lincoln

I realized when I made the decision to move to Prague that there was a whole lot of stuff in Illinois and the Midwest in general that I didn't get around to seeing. I didn't know if I would ever live in Illinois again, and there was one thing I absolutely had to see before I left because it went to the core of what the people of Illinois are proud of and hold dear.

I needed to go to Springfield, Illinois and see the new Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. The minute I drove into downtown Springfield, I could understand why my United States Senator, Barack Obama, chose this place to announce his candidacy for presidency of the United States and later, his choice of running mate. I got an instant lump in my throat just arriving -- such is the immediate visibility of American history here.

Abraham Lincoln, 16th President
of the United States of America

The museum was designed with the help of people from Disney, so it's the first "experiential" Presidential museum. People come here from all over the world, which surprised me, because Lincoln was president of the United States in the 1860s. I'm always amazed when people from other countries know our history so well.

The staff have the hardest time
keeping kids from pulling all the hair and eyelashes
out of the Lincoln family.
They look so real and the kids want to touch them.

One of the terrific
Presidential Museum volunteers -
there are many

When the museum was built,
the workmen kept trying to get all of the pieces
of the flooring to meet beautifully in the middle
but the tips kept breaking.
So a workman said, "I'll fix that,"
and he put a Lincoln penny into the floor so the tips didn't show.
It's still there! Some of the gentlemen volunteers keep a ready supply
of new shiny pennies to put on that spot
so kids can find it and have a neat souvenir:
a lucky Lincoln penny from the Lincoln Museum.

Museum visitors start their journey
by experiencing life in Lincoln's log cabin
and later go on to experience life in the White House.

During the four days I was visiting Springfield, the whole Bailout story started in the news. Somehow it made me appreciate the sacrifice of this Civil War Generation and what they went through to keep the union intact even more. The sacrifice and stress on the Lincolns themselves was incredible, with three dead children and of course, Lincoln's own death.

One of the most telling displays was the whispering gallery. As you walked through, you could hear all of the awful things people would say about the Lincolns while they were in office whispered out loud.

Another display that I appreciated was a presentation answering the question "what do we save this old stuff for anyway?" Explaining this to children has never been more important since children often no longer have a real librarian teaching them about libraries anymore in their schools. The presentation was so well done, many of us could not tell if the historian in the presentation was a hologram or an actor.

Listening to tweens come out of another "experiential" presentation, I heard them exclaim "that was so fly! That was awesome! Can we go in again?"

There is no way I can convey what the Museum so expertly conveyed which is how damn lucky the American people were to have this leadership at a time of enormous uncertainty when things could have gone so many different ways. As the historian in the first presentation said, the reason we save these old things is "so that the best in us-- live on in you."
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