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Lincoln Boyhood Launches Golden Anniversary Year

Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial

National Park News

On Sunday, February 19th, Lincoln Boyhood launched a year of 50th anniversary celebrations with a special Lincoln Day event.

Over 160 people braved predicted snow to hear Dr. Robert Bray, noted Lincoln scholar and author from Wesleyan University, talk about his book, Reading with Lincoln. Dr. Bray pointed out how remarkable Lincoln’s self-education was, especially in the context of frontier Indiana.

“Few people could read and write,” said Bray, “and even fewer could take those skills to an even higher level and write something new and more powerful than what they had read. Lincoln was…one person in a million.”

Dr. Bray was joined by members of the Heritage Hills High School chorus and soloist Kayla Springstun, who sang patriotic songs with a modern twist. Following the formal presentations, the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War led representatives from over a dozen organizations to lay wreaths at Nancy Hanks Lincoln’s grave.

“Abraham may not have written the Gettysburg address here,” said Kendell Thompson, the park’s superintendent, “but it was here that his mother started him on the road to reading; it was here that he learned to write the Gettysburg address.”

President Kennedy signed the legislation creating Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial on February 19, 1962. A special guest at this year’s Lincoln Day Program was local resident Pat Koch, who placed a time capsule beneath the cornerstone of the Lincoln Memorial Visitor Center when she was a young girl in 1941. Koch was also present in the Oval Office when Kennedy signed the park into existence. He handed her a pen used in the signing, which is now on display at the park.

Other 50th anniversary events planned for Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial this year include a classic 1960s car show, 1960s music, a park staff reunion, a rededication ceremony and a naturalization ceremony.

The year’s events will culminate in a national conference in October entitled “Constructing our Past—National Memorials within the National Park System.” The conference will focus on the 26 “memorial” sites within the national park system and examine their history and their significance and how they serve as tangible evidence of the ways our collective memory undergoes change and is sometimes influenced by more than a pure desire to objectively preserve our history.


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