As do most Illinoisans, I identify with Lincoln, though I can’t exactly tell you why. I just feel an innate sense of connectedness. Especially given the slew of corrupt politicians to emerge from Illinois in more recent years, most of us take a certain pride that Honest Abe called it home. And in turn, the world calls it the “Land of Lincoln.”
The policies that Lincoln implemented while in the White House are historically seen as morally and ethically sound. Even so, he did not have easy choices to make; he did what he knew was right for America and the American people - though many hated him for it.
The Abraham Lincoln Museum in Springfield is one of the most impressive museums in Illinois. Opened in 2005, it showcases his pre-Presidential life, as well as many scenes through his years in the White House, through incredibly life-like sculptures and scenes. If you ever find yourself in Springfield, go to this museum. You’ll regret it if you don't.
The segment of the museum that really had an impact on me was a room called “The Whispering Gallery."
This gallery impressed me because it brings to light what is downplayed in history books — that Lincoln wasn’t always popular. We look back on his Presidency and know the good he did, but in the moment he had many adversaries. The walls of the gallery are covered with reproductions of unfavorable political cartoons. A soundtrack of sneering remarks loops as you walk through. It is an unexpected and uncomfortable feeling.
I was 21 years old when I visited the Lincoln Museum — just four years ago. I was still in college. Our country was (as it still is) at war; our President was being ridiculed constantly. And for the first time, I found out that Lincoln, a man who we now know made all the right decisions, was derided by his contemporaries and constituents. As trite as it may sound, it was a life-changing, perspective-altering moment.
Springfield, Ill., isn’t immediately accessible to Columbus-area residents; it’s a twelve-hour, 740-mile trip. One way.
But luckily the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta is hosting several events celebrating Lincoln and his accomplishments as part of Lincoln’s bicentennial, Feb. 12.
The Carter Presidential Museum is showcasing “Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War” through April 26. The exhibit explores Lincoln’s commitment to making a difference, his leadership during a time of crisis, and the Constitution.
In addition to the exhibit, “Letters to Lincoln” will be read at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 12 and 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. Feb. 17 and Feb. 25. Visitors can meet President Lincoln and hear him recite the Gettysburg Address at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Feb. 16. All events are included with the admission price of $8 for adults; $6 for seniors, military and students with ID; and free for children 16 and younger. The Museum is open 9 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-4:45 p.m. Sunday. Call 404-865-7100 for more information.