Educators discuss President Lincoln's many talents

Posted Online: April 06, 2013, 9:17 pm
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By Laura Anderson Shaw,
To gear up for next Saturday's49th Convocation and Investiture of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois at Augustana College in Rock Island, roughly a dozen people gathered for A Lincoln Symposium: Scholars From the Land of Lincoln on Saturday afternoon at Western Illinois University Quad Cities Riverfront Campus in Moline.

The event was put on by Western Illinois University, Augustana College and Black Hawk College.

WIU-QC Vice President Joe Rives, who moderated the event, and Kai Swanson, Augustana College's executive assistant to the president, said the Lincoln Academy hasn't been held in the Quad-Cities since 1973.

To celebrate and gear up for the event, the three schools organized the symposium, which included a roughly 30-minute video on Lincoln's childhood and transition into adulthood, as well as presentations by Augustana history professor Dr. Stephen Warren, WIU history professor Dr. Timothy Roberts andBlack Hawk College sociology and psychology professor Dr. William Hampes.

The video illustrated how President Lincoln was formed by "the Indiana experience," the losses he experienced as a child and as an adult. It touched on his fascination with reading, writing, garnering a sense of community through reading newspapers, and his appreciation for humor.

It also discussed the ways in which he was raised, in communities and in a family that did not agree with slavery, and what an experience a flat boat trip down the river from Illinois to New Orleans could be.

After the video, Dr. Roberts, Dr. Warren and Dr. Hampes each offered comments about President Lincoln.

"Lincoln was a lonely guy ... struggling with trying to convince people to back him," Dr. Roberts said after the event.

President Lincoln had a "vision of what the country could become," Dr. Roberts said, not that America was a nation that was better than the rest but that it could simply be better, in a "humble" way, that America had a global responsibility. If democracy failed in America, "it may not recover," Dr. Roberts said.

President Lincoln was called too conservative, too radical, misogynistic, Dr. Roberts said.

"It's a lonely place."

Dr. Hampes told the crowd President Lincoln's personality was uniquely suited to use and appreciate humor, and he did so in many ways.

He said President Lincoln often told jokes and stories, and the video before the scholars' presentations noted he often would act out scenes from the books he read or from guests who visited.

Dr. Hampes said President Lincoln used these gestures to entertain others; to get others to defend themselves and to deflect criticism; to reduce stress; to teach; to get people to vote for him and allow people to be persuaded by him.

He was creative, open-minded and empathetic, Dr. Hampes said, and he had "an affinity for humor."

Dr. Warren said President Lincoln was "a product of frontier Illinois," good and bad. He had to sell the idea of anti-slavery, and while many historians may maintain he was a "flip-flopper," he was consistent on his stance of natural rights, Dr. Warren said.

"He grew up in an ugly period," Dr. Warren told the crowd. After the event, he said President Lincoln had the ability as a president to not only help himself but to help the country transcend that.

The Lincoln Academy of Illinois will be at 6 p.m. Saturday in Centennial Hall, Augustana College, 3703 7th Ave., Rock Island. Augustana College PresidentSteve Bahls and his wife, Jane, will represent Augustana College, and Samuel and Marsha Allen will represent Deere & Co. as ceremony co-hosts.

The Order of Lincoln, the state's highest award for individual achievement, will be "given to those who have spent a significant portion of their lives in Illinois or were born in the state, and those who embody the principles of our 16th president," Lincoln Academy President Julie Kellner said earlier this year.

A reception will follow in the Denkmann Memorial Building on campus.


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