Writer discovers personal tie to Lincoln

Nam Y. Huh, The Associated Press

By Don Baldwin

CHICAGO – Two centuries after Abraham Lincoln’s birth, everybody suddenly wants a piece of him.

He’s the subject of an avalanche of new books. New Lincoln pennies are being minted. The U.S. Postal Service released four new Lincoln stamps. And it seems like every state is staking a claim – no matter how tenuous – on his legacy.

Libraries, orchestra halls and museums across the country are all hosting their own parties for Thursday’s big 200. Celebrations years in the making have been energized by President Barack Obama, a fellow Illinoisan who refers constantly to Lincoln in speeches and even borrowed his Bible to take the oath of office.

“When Obama talked so openly about Lincoln, his admiration for him, it brings Lincoln to life even more than he would have been otherwise,” said historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, whose own Lincoln book “Team of Rivals” got the kind of publicity authors dream of when Obama started putting together his own team of rivals, referring to Cabinet secretaries who once competed with him.

Delaware, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, Idaho and Hawaii are just a few of the states planning bicentennial celebrations that stake their own unique claim to Lincoln – whether they were states at the time or not.

“More than any other state, Idaho is related to Abraham Lincoln,” reads the first line of the state’s bicentennial Web site, which explains that not only did Lincoln establish the Idaho Territory, he helped select the name “Idaho.” Further, it turns out Lincoln had “Idaho on his mind the day he was assassinated” – he had invited the territory’s delegate to Congress to join him for a night at Ford’s Theater.

That deep connection may surprise people in Kentucky, who will remind you that Lincoln was born there. They note that he had written a speech – never given – that included the words, “I, too, am a Kentuckian.”

“It would have helped us out a lot,” said Laura Coleman, marketing specialist with the Kentucky Historical Society. “It’s a great quote and it would have been even better had he actually said it.”

But nowhere is Lincoln bigger than in the “Land of Lincoln” – Illinois.

From a host of events at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield to a reading of the Gettysburg Address by school children across the state, Illinois is determined not to be out-Lincolned.

In Champaign, the Phi Alpha Theta honors fraternity sponsored a movie showing at Huff Hall Wednesday evening in honor of Lincoln.

“Abraham Lincoln is a symbol that is very representative of Illinois,” said Brad Cesario, senior in history. “It’s important to celebrate him, especially now that we have another leader from Illinois in the Oval Office.”

Daily Illini staff writer Rosie Powers contributed to this report

Celebrate Lincoln’s birthday around campus

Abraham Lincoln: A concert in celebration of his 200th birthday

Feb. 14 at 7:30 p.m.

Foellinger Great Hall of the Krannert Center

Lincoln Bicentennial Film Festival: Gore Vidal’s Lincoln, Part 2

Feb. 18 at 6 p.m.

112 Huff Hall

Lincoln Bicentennial Film Festival: Abraham Lincoln – A New Birth of Freedom

Feb. 25 at 6 p.m.

112 Huff Hall

Black Women at the Pursuit of Freedom

March 4 at 4 p.m.

Levis Faculty Center, Third Floor