Sunday, May 1, 2011

"If you can't be an honest lawyer, just be honest."

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This was one of many humorous quotes we were entertained by on Saturday at the Canton Public Library where we met President Abraham Lincoln. This was not the first time that we have seen Howard Wright, teacher from Renbrook School, impersonate the late president. Mr. Wright has painstakingly prepared such a presentation to include many quotes and readings of Lincoln told in a story-like manner. In preparation, he studied tapes of Kentucky accents and tried to present as real a presentation as he could of what it would be like to listen to the slow, twangy voice of Abraham Lincoln in person. The picture speaks for itself.

In his performance entitled, "Simply Lincoln" he read excerpts from letters written by Abraham Lincoln, messages to Congress, The Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address. Between the readings he commented on their relevance or of his feelings at the time. He spoke of his love and respect for the Bible. The entire presentation was in first person as Abraham Lincoln.

The following are a few of the things that stood out for me. When asked if he wanted to run for president, "the taste is in my mouth." He won with forty percent of the popular vote. The interesting thing was that his name was not even on the ballot in most of the southern states.

President Lincoln wanted a gradual emancipation. He wanted to reimburse the people for their slaves and to ship the slaves back to their home lands. This was not a popular solution.

He spoke of the Generals and the problems with them. McClellan was cautious, hesitant and not aggressive. He said that he even had painted logs to look like cannons to scare the South. Lincoln said these became referred to as Quaker guns.

General Grant did a good job but had a drinking problem. One interesting thing he pointed out about the Civil War was that the Southerners, while fighting, had slaves looking after their farms whereas the Northerners did not and it was a bigger sacrifice for them.

When he spoke of signing the Emancipation Proclamation, he knew that this was something for which he would be remembered. The importance of it caused his hand to shake when he signed it. It appeared that most times he signed "A. Lincoln" but when it came to this document, he signed, "Abraham Lincoln".

In reference to writing the Gettysburg Address, he said he specifically chose short words as they have a power of their own. He wanted to aim lower to reach the masses, not just the educated but to all the common people. He said, "If you give me six hours to chop down a tree, I'll spend four hours sharpening the ax." That showed how important it was to him to consider the right words in the right way.

The hour went by quickly and although I have told you some of what Mr. Wright said, I encourage you to see him if you have the chance. There are many activities centering on the anniversary of the Civil War. I'm sure he will be presenting his program again. If you are in awe of this amazing president or if you just like history, seize the opportunity to see Mr. Wright's presentation.

On a side note, we had to make reservations to go to this free program. The librarian was quite amused to find out that George Washington was coming to hear Abraham Lincoln.

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