You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Mary Todd Lincoln’ category.

I felt like a kid, tonight.  In fact, it felt like I had the excitement of all my birthdays and Christmases all combined.

Quintin and I met Brian Pollock at The Greene to watch the movie I’ve waited several years to see.

The theatre, at 6:30pm, was packed for the 7:00pm showing, and we sat down in the lower tier, or as Brian aptly stated, “laying down in front of the TV on the floor.”  I was thrilled to see the theater packed.  At first, when I saw the immense lines of young teen girls, I was hopeful that LINCOLN-fever had reached their generation; however, I soon learned they were there to see the new TWILIGHT movie.

My bottom line reaction:  BRAVO!

I am sure the historians will find fault with this movie.  Naturally, there were items I knew, or believed to be historically inaccurate, but this is not a documentary.  LINCOLN is a fictional account based on the book by Doris Kearns Goodwin, TEAM OF RIVALS.  Tony Award winning playwright, Tony Kushner, delivered a tight, believable, and emotional script that highlighted some of our country’s greatest individuals set against the backdrop of the Civil War.

Before the movie even hit theaters, folks were complaining about Sally Field being too old, photos of the White House set not being accurate, or a myriad of other picky items.  Folks were concerned the script would not be accurate.  Again, it was a fictional account, based on actual events.  If we were to examine THE SOUND OF MUSIC, THE KING AND I, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN, ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, GYPSY, and others, we would be appalled at the truth versus the fictional accounts portrayed on stage.  LINCOLN is no different.

Following a robust applause, the credits scrolled upward.  It was an impressive line-up of names!  I asked Brian if there any actors left in Hollywood to film other movies while this was being filmed.  Incredible performances from some incredible actors.

Daniel Day Lewis and Sally Field, as President Lincoln & Mary Todd Lincoln, were everything I hoped they would be.  I was not let down.  Hal Holbrook was brilliant, and I did love the fact that a former Lincoln-actor, LINCOLN (television 1974-1975), was included in this list of stars.  There was not one performance that disappointed me.

For me, the most delightful performance was delivered by Tommy Lee Jones, portraying Pennsylvania congressman, Thaddeus Stevens.  Outstanding!  I smell a supporting actor Oscar nomination!

Many have commented on Daniel Day Lewis’ voice in the movie.  I think everyone believes Abraham Lincoln had a booming baritone voice like James Earl Jones; however, Lincoln’s voice was described as “high pitched, thin and reedy.”  It served him well during speeches before thousands of spectators in an era without electronic sound amplification.  I believe Daniel Day Lewis captured Lincoln’s voice.

In the early stages, several colleagues were fearful of Sally Fields being 20 years older than Daniel Day Lewis, and not matching the 9 year age difference between Lincoln and Mary Todd.  I oft reminded the critics that Mrs. Lincoln, at age 44, looked much older, and with the blessings of Max Factor, Sally Field would be right in the ball park.

And, she was!

Sally Field has succeeded a long line of well-known actresses who have portrayed the first lady:

  • Jane Curtin
  • Donna Murphy
  • Sada Thompson (opposite Hal Holbrook)
  • Glenn Close
  • Ellen Burstyn
  • Mary Tyler Moore
  • Julie Harris (in the Broadway play, THE LAST OF MRS. LINCOLN, penned by fellow Ball State University graduate, James Prideaux)
  • Lillian Gish
  • Geraldine Fitzgerald
  • Ruth Gordon
  • and dozens more…

When Gore Vidal’s LINCOLN premiered on television, I was horrified by Mary Tyler Moore’s abrasive portrayal of Mrs. Lincoln.  With the combined script, direction and acting, I felt Tyler-Moore’s particular portrayal was just awful.  Sally Field, for me, personally, was Mary Todd Lincoln.  Ms. Field was terribly believable, capturing Mrs. Lincoln’s fire, intelligence, grace, doubts, feelings and frustrations of being left out of her husband’s White House work, charm, political savvy, tender and protective maternal nature, and a Mary that was very capable of holding her own in a world ruled by men!

Were there items I feel should have been included to better round out the character of Mrs. Lincoln?

Of course.  But this movie was not about Mary Todd Lincoln.  It focused on President Lincoln and those who fought to pass the Thirteenth Amendment.  The writing and directing of this particular character was far better than previous attempts, and Ms. Field’s professional, and personal choices pleased me very much.

There were a few scenes that were historically adjusted, but those moments seemed to strengthen Mary Lincoln’s heartbreak and devastation at the loss of her son, Willie, who died within their first year of residency in the White House, as well as the fire and capacity that Mrs. Lincoln exhibited, much to Abraham’s success.

So… go see LINCOLN.

If you are a historian, take off your historian cap, as I did, and simply rejoice in the truly great work, and the fact that the Lincolns are currently a fairly hot commodity in motion pictures!

gfyjg

Mock trial finds

Mary Todd Lincoln was not insane

Re-enactment at presidential museum finds former first lady wrongfully committed

By Jason Nevel

Posted Oct 01, 2012 @ 10:44 PM

SPRINGFIELD —

Jurors in 1875 made the wrong choice in committing Mary Todd Lincoln to a mental institution, a retrial of the famous case found Monday.

The re-enactment was held at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, with area judges serving as attorneys arguing for and against the widow of President Lincoln. The audience served as the jury.

In 1875, the nation’s former first lady was judged insane during a trial in Chicago and ordered to a Batavia sanitarium. She obtained an early release, and, one year later, another jury found her sane.

First Lady Mary Lincon

For more than 100 years, historians have debated whether there was enough evidence to ever commit Mrs. Lincoln to an institution. In Monday’s event, actors in period costumes portrayed Mary Todd Lincoln and her son Robert Lincoln, who filed the petition to have his mother involuntarily committed. The retrial lasted more than two hours.

The vote on whether to institutionalize the troubled first lady was 68 for and 159 against. A similar retrial was held Sept. 24 in Chicago. Audience members there also overwhelmingly disagreed with the initial verdict.

Beth Pendergast, a Springfield audience member, said she believed there was enough to prove Mary Todd Lincoln was insane based on her erratic behavior.

Historical accounts describe Mary Todd Lincoln as slowly going insane after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the death of three sons. However, some people argue Robert Lincoln was trying to protect the family’s reputation.

To open up the trial, Robert Lincoln, portrayed by Zach Kenney of Chicago, was questioned by a lawyer portrayed by Ronald Spears, a circuit judge in Christian County.

Robert Lincoln said his mother, for unknown reasons, thought he was ill and traveled from Florida to Chicago to see him. On the train ride there, she said someone tried to poison her coffee and steal her purse, he said.

While staying at a hotel in Chicago, Robert Lincoln further testified that his mother thought the city of Chicago was on fire, she could hear voices through the walls, and his mother thought he was going to kill her. There was also testimony about Mrs. Lincoln’s spending habits.

Having her committed was for her safety, Robert Lincoln said.

“I want to protect her and provide her the treatment she needs,” he said.

Mrs. Lincoln’s defense said she feared for Robert Lincoln’s safety because her three other sons had died of illness. Her actions were motivated by her desire to protect her surviving son, her lawyer said.

Actress Sally Field as First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln

Since I was very young, I’ve immersed myself in presidential history, and have loved visiting historical sites associated with our nation’s leaders.  Today, my friend, Jeff Carter, and I were discussing our bucket lists of places to visit, and I decided to make a list of places I wish to visit, and places I’ve visited.

Presidential Sites I wish to visit:

  1. Truman’s Independence, Missouri home
  2. Truman’s Library & Grave in Independence, Missouri
  3. Eisenhower’s grave in Kansa
  4. Wilson’s Washington DC home
  5. Wilson’s birthplace in Staunton, Virginia
  6. Roosevelt Campobello Island summer home
  7. Roosevelt’s Warm Springs in Georgia
  8. Adams’ Peacefield Home & Birthplaces
  9. Madison’s Montpelier in Virginia
  10. Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, Texas
  11. Nixon’s Library, Grave & Birthplace
  12. Ford’s Library & Grave
  13. Reagan’s Library & Grave
  14. Kennedy Library
  15. Andrew Johnson’s Home/Gravesite in Greensboro, Tennessee
  16. Buchanan Pennsylvania home/grave in Pennsylvania

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Presidential Birthplaces & Homes visited:

 

Carter

Birthplace Site

Plains, Georgia

Carter

Home

Plains, Georgia

Grant

Birthplace

Point Pleasant, Ohio

Grant

Boyhood home

Georgetown, Ohio

Harding

Birthplace site

Ohio

Harding

Home

Marion, Ohio

Harrison B

Birthplace site

North Bend, Ohio

Harrison B

Home

Indianapolis, Indiana

Harrison WH

Birthplace

Berkeley Plantation, Virginia

Hayes

Birthplace site

Ohio

Hayes

Home

Fremont, Ohio

Jackson

Home

Nashville, Tennesee

Jefferson

Home

Monticello – Virginia

Lincoln

Birthplace

Hodgenville, Kentucky

Lincoln

Boyhood home

Hodgenville, Kentucky

Lincoln

Boyhood home

Gentryville, Indiana

Lincoln

Boyhood home

Coles County, Illinois

Lincoln

Family home

Springfield, Illinois

Monroe

Home

Ash Lawn – Virginia

Polk

Home

Columbia, Tennessee

Roosevelt F

Home

Hyde Park, New York

Roosevelt T

Birthplace

Manhattan, New York

Roosevelt T

Home

Oyster Bay, New York

Taft

Birthplace

Cincinnati, Ohio

Tyler

Home

Sherwood Forrest – Virginia

Washington

Birthplace

Virginia

Washington

Home

Mount Vernon – Virginia

Presidential Grave Sites:

 

Grant

Manhattan, New York

Harding

Marion, Ohio

Harrison WH

North Bend, Ohio

Harrison, B

Indianapolis, Indiana

Hayes

Fremont, Ohio

Jackson

Nashville, Tennessee

Jefferson

Monticello – Virginia

Kennedy

Arlington Cemetery, Virginia

Lincoln

Springfield, Illinois

Monroe

Richmond, Virginia

Polk

Columbia, Tennessee

Roosevelt F

Hyde Park, New York

Roosevelt T

Oyster Bay, New York

Taft

Arlington Cemetery, Virginia

Taylor

Louisville, Kentucky

Tyler

Richmond, Virginia

Washington

Mount Vernon – Virginia

Wilson

Washington Cathedral, Washington DC

 

Presidential Related Sites Visited:

 

Carter

Various Sites

Plains, Georgia

Jefferson

Memorial

Washington, DC

Kennedy

Limo @ Henry Ford Museum

Dearborn, Michigan

Lincoln

Mary Todd Home

Lexington, Kentucky

Lincoln

Mary Todd Birthplace Site

Lexington, Kentucky

Lincoln

Todd Family Graves

Lexington, Kentucky

Lincoln

Nancy Hanks Home

Kentucky

Lincoln

Harrogate Museum

Harrogate, Kentucky

Lincoln

Sarah Bush Site

Elizabethtown, Kentucky

Lincoln

Ben Hardin Helm Grave

Elizabethtown, Kentucky

Lincoln

Lincoln Museum & Library

Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln

Chair @ Henry Ford Museum

Dearborn, Michigan

Lincoln

Memorial

Washington, DC

Lincoln

Peterson House

Washington, DC

Lincoln

Ford Theater

Washington, DC

Lincoln

Law Office

Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln

Church pew

Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln

Old State Capitol

Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln

Nancy Hanks Grave

Gentryville, Indiana

Lincoln

Sarah Lincoln Grave

Gentryville, Indiana

Lincoln

Pioneer Village

Rockport, Indiana

Lincoln

Robert Lincoln Home

Manchester, Vermont

Lincoln

Robert Lincoln Grave

Arlington Cemetery

Lincoln

Edwards Home

Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln

Thomas & Sarah Lincoln Graves

Coles County, Illinois

Lincoln

Sarah Lincoln Home (Moore)

Coles County, Illinois

Lincoln

Gettysburg Sites

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Presidents

The White House

Washington, DC

Presidents

Smithsonian Institute

Washington, DC

Roosevelt

Eleanor’s Val-Kil Cottage

Hyde Park, New York

Roosevelt F

Home where married

Manhattan, New York

Roosevelt F

Memorial

Washington, DC

Roosevelt T

Island & Memorial

Washington, DC

Washington

Monument

Washington, DC

Presidential Birthplaces & Homes visited:

 

Carter

Birthplace Site

Plains, Georgia

Carter

Home

Plains, Georgia

Grant

Birthplace

Point Pleasant, Ohio

Grant

Boyhood home

Georgetown, Ohio

Harding

Birthplace site

Ohio

Harding

Home

Marion, Ohio

Harrison B

Birthplace site

North Bend, Ohio

Harrison B

Home

Indianapolis, Indiana

Harrison WH

Birthplace

Berkeley Plantation, Virginia

Hayes

Birthplace site

Ohio

Hayes

Home

Fremont, Ohio

Jackson

Home

Nashville, Tennesee

Jefferson

Home

Monticello – Virginia

Lincoln

Birthplace

Hodgenville, Kentucky

Lincoln

Boyhood home

Hodgenville, Kentucky

Lincoln

Boyhood home

Gentryville, Indiana

Lincoln

Boyhood home

Coles County, Illinois

Lincoln

Family home

Springfield, Illinois

Monroe

Home

Ash Lawn – Virginia

Polk

Home

Columbia, Tennessee

Roosevelt F

Home

Hyde Park, New York

Roosevelt T

Birthplace

Manhattan, New York

Roosevelt T

Home

Oyster Bay, New York

Taft

Birthplace

Cincinnati, Ohio

Tyler

Home

Sherwood Forrest – Virginia

Washington

Birthplace

Virginia

Washington

Home

Mount Vernon – Virginia

 

Presidential Grave Sites:

 

Grant

Manhattan, New York

Harding

Marion, Ohio

Harrison WH

North Bend, Ohio

Harrison, B

Indianapolis, Indiana

Hayes

Fremont, Ohio

Jackson

Nashville, Tennessee

Jefferson

Monticello – Virginia

Kennedy

Arlington Cemetery, Virginia

Lincoln

Springfield, Illinois

Monroe

Richmond, Virginia

Polk

Columbia, Tennessee

Roosevelt F

Hyde Park, New York

Roosevelt T

Oyster Bay, New York

Taft

Arlington Cemetery, Virginia

Taylor

Louisville, Kentucky

Tyler

Richmond, Virginia

Washington

Mount Vernon – Virginia

Wilson

Washington Cathedral, Washington DC

 

 

Presidential Related Sites Visited:

 

Carter

Various Sites

Plains, Georgia

Jefferson

Memorial

Washington, DC

Kennedy

Limo @ Henry Ford Museum

Dearborn, Michigan

Lincoln

Mary Todd Home

Lexington, Kentucky

Lincoln

Mary Todd Birthplace Site

Lexington, Kentucky

Lincoln

Todd Family Graves

Lexington, Kentucky

Lincoln

Nancy Hanks Home

Kentucky

Lincoln

Harrogate Museum

Harrogate, Kentucky

Lincoln

Sarah Bush Site

Elizabethtown, Kentucky

Lincoln

Ben Hardin Helm Grave

Elizabethtown, Kentucky

Lincoln

Lincoln Museum & Library

Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln

Chair @ Henry Ford Museum

Dearborn, Michigan

Lincoln

Memorial

Washington, DC

Lincoln

Peterson House

Washington, DC

Lincoln

Ford Theater

Washington, DC

Lincoln

Law Office

Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln

Church pew

Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln

Old State Capitol

Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln

Nancy Hanks Grave

Gentryville, Indiana

Lincoln

Sarah Lincoln Grave

Gentryville, Indiana

Lincoln

Pioneer Village

Rockport, Indiana

Lincoln

Robert Lincoln Home

Manchester, Vermont

Lincoln

Robert Lincoln Grave

Arlington Cemetery

Lincoln

Edwards Home

Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln

Thomas & Sarah Lincoln Graves

Coles County, Illinois

Lincoln

Sarah Lincoln Home (Moore)

Coles County, Illinois

Lincoln

Gettysburg Sites

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Presidents

The White House

Washington, DC

Presidents

Smithsonian Institute

Washington, DC

Roosevelt

Eleanor’s Val-Kil Cottage

Hyde Park, New York

Roosevelt F

Home where married

Manhattan, New York

Roosevelt F

Memorial

Washington, DC

Roosevelt T

Island & Memorial

Washington, DC

Washington

Monument

Washington, DC

From The Northwest Herald…

Morton: ‘Willie’ was second Lincoln child to die young

Since March 1973 I have collected books, and other Lincoln memorabilia.  My most prized possession… the bust of Lincoln given to my by my uncle, Ron Barmes, 1973.  Another is a framed card de visite of Mary Todd Lincoln – signature on back; in emerald frame, a gift from my grandmother, Donna Barmes. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Edward Baker “Eddie” Lincoln (March 10, 1846 – February 1, 1850) was the second son of Abraham & Mary Todd Lincoln. He was named after Lincoln’s friend Edward Dickinson Baker, and the youngest Lincoln son to die.  Eddie died one month short of his fourth birthday.

Eddie’s remains are buried at Lincoln tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois, USA. Both parents were devastated. Some historians believe Eddie’s death began Mary Todd’s journey to instability. A week after Eddie’s death, a poem entitled “Little Eddie,” was printed in the Illinois State Journal (a newspaper).  Despite a century dispute over the authorship of the poem, the author of this blog firmly believes it was written by Mrs. Lincoln for his mother spelled his name “Eddie,” while his father spelled it “Eddy.”

Those midnight stars are sadly dimmed,

That late so brilliantly shone,

And the crimson tinge from cheek and lip,

With the heart’s warm life has flown –

The angel of Death was hovering nigh,

And the lovely boy was called to die.

The silken waves of his glossy hair

Lie still over his marble brow,

And the pallid lip and pearly cheek

The presence of Death avow.

Pure little bud in kindness given,

In mercy taken to bloom in heaven.

Happier far is the angel child

With the harp and the crown of gold,

Who warbles now at the Savior’s feet

The glories to us untold. Eddie,

meet blossom of heavenly love,

Dwells in the spirit-world above.

Angel Boy – fare thee well, farewell

Sweet Eddie, We bid thee adieu!

Affection’s wail cannot reach thee now

Deep though it be, and true.

Bright is the home to him now given

For “of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.”‘


The final line is on the boy’s tombstone. The next child of Abraham and Mary, William Wallace Lincoln, was born ten months after Eddie’s death.

* The photograph included in this post has been in dispute since its discovery.  Some believe it is Eddie Lincoln, some believe it is his younger brother, Willie.  I, personally, have always believed it to be Eddie Lincoln.

Sam Waterston�s Remarks at Monticello, July 4th, 2007

It’s wonderful to be here and a privilege, indeed, to congratulate you, the heroes of the moment in the great work of making and sustaining a government that derives its authority from individual liberty.

My father came to this country from Scotland via England, and became a citizen.  He knew beforehand that the ceremony was going to be a significant event.  Even so, he wasn’t prepared for the emotional power it had for him.  He became a citizen in a group like this, neither very large nor very small.  The ceremony’s power multiplied with their numbers.  Everyone in his batch of new citizens was moved for themselves, my father included, but they were all overwhelmed by each other, new members of a centuries old tide of migration here ‘to the empire of liberty’.  It lifted them out of what we mistakenly call ordinary life into the realization that properly understood, life is grand opera, as one is sometimes made aware by a wedding, or the birth of a child.

Something like that, momentous and every-day, is afoot here.  Brand new Americans are being made, and I’m delighted to be here to celebrate my father’s becoming an American citizen through your becoming American citizens, and your becoming American citizens through celebrating him, and through all of you, the rest of us, who were lucky to be given what you reached for and took.  It’s delightful.  We are all lucky, the old citizens in what we got for free, and you, the ones, in knowing what it’s worth.  We have a lot to tell one another. Congratulations.  Bravo. Yay.  The conversation begins now.

Monticello is a beautiful spot for this, full as it is of the spirit that animated this country’s foundation: boldness, vision, improvisation, practicality, inventiveness and imagination, the kind of cheekiness that only comes with free-thinking and faith in an individual’s ability to change the face of the world — it’s easy to imagine Jefferson saying to himself, “So what if I’ve never designed a building before? If I want to, I will.”) — to make something brand new out of the elements of an old culture, be it English Common Law or Palladian Architecture. With its slave quarters and history, it’s also a healthy reminder that our old country, your new country, for all its glory, has always had feet of clay, and work that needed doing.

So it’s good that you’ve come, fresh troops and reinforcement. We old citizens could use some help.

It’s a glorious day, making allowances for the heat. It’s the Fourth of July, the 181st Anniversary of the deaths of the second and third Presidents of the United States, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, the individual who impertinently designed this house. It’s a double birthday, of the country, and of your citizenship. A great American Supreme Court Judge, Oliver Wendell Holmes, describing a similar day, said that it looked as if “God had just spit on his sleeve and polished up the universe till you could almost see your face reflected in it.”

We know all the beauty of this day wasn’t arranged exclusively for those of us gathered here, we’re reasonable people, but you who are about to become citizens here, are within your rights to look at it all and see your own faces reflected there, as Justice Holmes said, because it really is a place and time made for you. You’re joining a country already in motion that looks for your effect on it, so that it can better know what it needs to become, for tomorrow.

Welcome. We need you. There’s much to be done.

My talk is, effectively, your graduation address, and every good graduation address begins with a call to the graduates to help the world they are entering discover its future. Consider yourselves called. And if the sea that’s America looks large in comparison to the size of your ship, don’t be dismayed. Let Thomas Jefferson be our example:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”. The words are so familiar, so potent, so important, so grand and fine, it’s hard to believe that a person, any single person, actually wrote them, picked up a pen, dipped it in ink, and, on a blank white sheet, made appear for the first time what had never before existed in the whole history of the world. By scratching away at the page, he called a country into being, knowing as he wrote that the country was no more than an idea, and the idea might, at any instant, be erased and destroyed, and the United States of America become just another sorry footnote in the history of suppressed rebellions against tyranny…. And went on writing. You can’t help but be impressed by all that that one person, and the small group of individuals around him, not much larger than your group of new citizens, won for so many.

I guess you can see where I’m headed.

Abraham Lincoln called ours “Government of the people, by the people, for the people.” I claim that the word ‘people’, as used there, stands for a great many individuals, rather than for a collective. It wasn’t a mob, but individuals acting in a group that made this country up out of whole cloth. These are just the sort of people the country needs now, individuals acting together for the common good.

How apt, how opportune, that you should come to join us just now.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “The foundation stone of national life is, and ever must be, the high individual character of the average citizen.” That understates the case: the United States — a participatory democracy is one way political scientists describe it — counts on its citizens turning out to be above average, like all the students in Lake Woebegone.

And that’s where you come in.

Thomas Jefferson’s fragile idea looks pretty solid now, with all the history and highways and airports, and webs of all kinds tying us together. But for all the building and bulldozing, the wealth, and the resources, the United States is still a contract among individuals around an idea. If the saying is, ‘contracts are made to be broken’, we want this one to hold, which requires all hands to be on deck.

That’s where you come in. You come in from Togo; Bosnia-Herzegovina; Canada and Peru; Afghanistan, India, and Mexico; China, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom; Croatia, El Salvador, Ghana, the Philippines, and Vietnam; Argentina, Bangladesh, Belgium, Chile, Colombia, Congo, Guatemala, Iran, Italy, Jamaica, Poland, Romania, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, and Turkey — The names themselves a poem about all the migrating peoples who come here. The United States may seem like a fixed star, but it isn’t. It is a relationship between citizens and an idea, and, like all relationships, it changes with the people in it. Its past is always up for reargument; its present is constantly unfolding, complex, a continuum of surprises; and the future is yet to be written. A country is alive, or it’s history. As long as this country endures, it will always be in search of how to understand itself and where to go from here.

That’s where you come in. That’s where we come in.

We all need to exercise our lungs in the discussion: what does our past mean, what are we to do now, and what will be our future? This is not a job just for the talking heads on TV and the politicians. Nor for moneyed interests, nor for single-issue movements. As the WWI recruiting poster said, “Uncle Sam needs you”, needs us.

You just heard John Charles recite the three cardinal rights that no one may take from us, to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”. As newly minted citizens, they were already familiar.

But my question is for the rest of us, the ones who are citizens already. In the midst of the interests and pressures of our own lives, don’t we leave a good deal of Life and Liberty to the Government to attend to, so we may concentrate full-time on the Pursuit of Happiness?

Don’t we too often think of our part as being to vote, occasionally, not in very great numbers, and only if there’s time and inclination, to keep up with the news, if it’s amusing and entertaining, but, like the man in the song who was hardly ever sick at see, never, never, well, hardly ever interfere, as individuals, with the work of the politicians?

But if this be so, or partly so, would that be a reason to be concerned? History shows that America is the all-time greatest self-correcting nation. It almost seems to be both a perpetual motion machine and a self-righting machine. Why would any sensible citizen and patriot want to throw a wrench in the works, or try to fix what isn’t broken?

I would like to suggest that if we think this way even a little, we have the wrong idea. We are greatly mistaken to think sharing our views with the television set and our husbands and wives, and voting a little, is enough. Don’t you who are new pick up these bad habits from us.

America has been marvelously able to correct its course in the past because the founding idea — of individual freedom expressed through direct representation — has stirred its citizens to participate, and interfere. Information from the people makes the government smarter. Insufficient information from us makes it dumber. Or, as Abraham Lincoln more elegantly expressed it, ” Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? Is there any better or equal hope in the world?” Leaders, if they are wise, will be patient. But we mustn’t try their patience too much. For us, finding that ultimate justice means thinking and talking until we reach it, and continuing to speak until the politicians understand it.

We may not leave it to the three branches of government to sort things out, to bring us the right questions for decision, to make the right decisions themselves.

Never has that statement been truer than now. Our national politics have stalled over a quarter of a century over very large issues, including immigration, social security, health care, and especially, since it affects the countries you’ve left, the country you’re joining, and all the countries in between, the health of the planet. War has both parties running to extremes.

If you think the problems are not any more urgent, or the discord any worse, than normal, then, well, I disagree, but my point remains: in our country, things are ‘normal’ only when your voices are clearly heard. The old model of our citizenly relation to politics was of a group of people under a tree, taking turns on the stump all day, discussing the issues of the time. The old model was the town meeting where every citizen can have their say. Old citizens like me hope that between you and the Internet the old model will get a new lease on life.

Whether you work within the Democratic or Republican parties, or join in supporting a bi-partisan ticket for 2008 as I have, in an effort to drive the parties to work together and to show them how it’s done, do do something.

From your first breath as an American citizen, make it known what matters to you.

We can’t let ourselves become mere units of statistical analysis. It appears to be so, that if you ask any 1000 Americans their views on anything, you’ll have a pretty good idea what all Americans think. You might almost conclude that individuals didn’t matter at all anymore.

But then here you come in, and prove the opposite.

By individual choice and individual effort, you traveled the miles, and did the work required, to arrive here today to join the country whose whole monumental structure rests on personal freedom. Will you make yourselves content to become a mere grain of sand in a vast statistical ocean?

Don’t be discouraged by the odds. It isn’t all determinism and the tide of history. An individual can up-end what is determined, and speed or reverse the tide. The man on whose estate we stand, by pushing his pen across a blank page, proved that.

Besides, the science of statistics has another aspect. It appears that the most reliable way to know who will win the next election or whether the stock market will go up or down is to ask as many people as possible to make a bet about it. Their bets often tell more than all the opinions of the pundits and economists, politicos and market watchers. It turns out Lincoln was right about the ‘ultimate wisdom of the people’. But here’s the catch: if you don’t make yourself heard, your bet can’t be counted.

“Men may be trusted to govern themselves without a master,” as Jefferson predicted. But will we, by our silence, indifference, or inaction, give the trust away, cede it to the wealthy, present it to the entrenched, hand it off to the government, entrust it to any process or procedure that excludes our voices? It could happen.

“As a nation of freemen,” Abraham Lincoln said, “we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

That’s where we all come in.

As graduating citizens, you will know how the government is set up: the justly familiar separation of powers, the well-known system of checks and balances, and the famous three branches of government: the executive branch, the judicial branch, and the legislative branch.

If these are the branches, what is the tree? Do not think it’s the government.

We are the tree from which the government springs and spreads into its three branches. Every citizen is part of the root system, part of the trunk, no mere twig or leaf. Help our government never to forget it.

We have to bring energy, action, participation, and money to the three branches, or they get no nourishment, and nothing will prevent them from becoming brittle and dry, and unfruitful.

I hope you don’t waste all the time I have in figuring out how a citizen should relate to his government. Talk to it. Tell it what you like. Tell it what you don’t like. Vote, of course. Think about what you want our future to look like. Let the government know. Roll up your sleeves, stick out your chin, sharpen your elbows, get in the middle of things, make them different.

You will be bound to get a lot of things wrong. That’s what we do. But the possibility of error is no excuse for being quiet, and I say this on the good authority of past Presidents:

“Man was never intended to become an oyster.”

That’s Theodore Roosevelt talking.

“Get action. Seize the moment,” he said, and he also said, “The credit belongs to the man…. who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who… spends himself for a worthy cause”

And President Thomas Jefferson wrote,

“The evils flowing from the duperies of the people [— that is, the ignorant errors of folks like you and me —] are less injurious than those from the egoism of their agents [ — that is, the arrogant errors of those who speak and act for us].”

So it turns out citizenship isn’t just a great privilege and opportunity, though it is all that, it’s also a job. I’m sorry to be the one to bring you this news, so late in the process. But don’t worry, it’s a great job. Everything that happens within this country politically, and everywhere in the world its influence is felt, falls within its province. It’s a job with a lot of scope. You’ll never be able to complain again about being bored at work. As we multiply our individual voices, we multiply the chances for our country’s success.

Which is where we all come in.

May your initiation here be a reminder to us all to put the participation back into ‘participatory democracy’.

May all our citizenship be individual, unflagging, and vocal, and may our old country, your new country, so prosper.

There’s lots to do.  All hands on deck.  Members of the class of 2007: Congratulations.  God bless you.  Let us hear from you.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

4:00am found me wide awake this morning, but I managed to return to two more hours of sleep.

After feeding Logan and Flyer, I settled down to write the morning’s entry on this blog site, and by 9:30am I was finally preparing my presentation on Robert Todd Lincoln for the Lincoln Society of Dayton. For several weeks I had been storing away items in my brain but had not committed any notes to paper. Everything flowed easily, and within an hour I had the entire presentation completed.

I was amazed at how easy it all fell together, but then, I have been studying the Lincoln family for nearly forty years.

At 1:00pm Bob & Sarah Koogler arrived, and after a few minutes of conversation in the house, we set out for the Patterson Family Homestead near the University of Dayton.

I was excited to spend time with Bob & Sarah, and was equally surprised to see Bill & Kay Hetzer, and Geary & Jennifer Biggs.

The crowd was very kind, enthusiastic, and surprisingly eager to learn about Robert Todd Lincoln! The presentation went smoothly, even when I said “Robert Lincoln became a captain in the army under General Lee” – instead of General Grant! The audience roared even more when I tossed the comment off with “I guess I am rewriting history.”

The question/answer segment was filled with some great questions and comments.

After the presentation, the Kooglers, Hetzers, Biggs and I drove over to Ben & Jerry’s for some ice cream, and had the best time laughing.

The Kooglers dropped me off, and I hurried over to pick up Sophie Lockhart for her lesson. I spent a good hour talking to Valerie and Sophie before heading back home for Soph’s lesson.

Jose and I grabbed Subway for dinner (I deserved to have someone else prepare food today), and ate dinner. I settled down in my bedroom to type, and watch The Tony Awards. Slightly uneventful… and disappointing with some of the performances.

The evening is slowing down nicely, and with some relaxation after the whirlwind weekend.

In 1986, while a student at Ball State University, I began writing a choral project on President Lincoln. Having been a fan of the 16th president since first grade this was a project I thoroughly enjoyed. For some reason, I had not read much on his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln. The precious little information I had obtained led me to follow the belief that she was a hysterical shrew, and hell-cat as described by some of her less flattering contemporaries.

One movement in this proposed choral piece was entitled, “Love Is Eternal,” based on the inscription on Mrs. Lincoln’s Etruscan gold wedding band given to her on the day she married Mr. Lincoln, November 4, 1842. This movement was more a sarcastic treatment rather than one about true love. I began this portion thinking, “Oh, poor Mr. Lincoln, married to Mary Todd… how sad.”

My MTL Research Journey journey began with Ruth Painter Randall’s 1953 biography, Mary Lincoln: Biography of a Marriage. I was soon scratching my head, and wondering why so many from her generation thought of her with such acidity. I began believing, “Oh, poor Mary Todd, married to Mr. Lincoln!”

A friend introduced me to Irving Stone’s, Love Is Eternal: Mary Todd Lincoln. Although I had some minor issues with Mr. Stone’s research, I enjoyed a year of correspondence between the famed historical fiction author, and his lovely wife, Jean. Mr. Stone’s sympathetic portrayal of Mary Todd Lincoln was, to me, quite enchanting, and terribly romantic.

Weighed with the enormous works of Ms. Randall and Mr. Stone, I soon began scouring Springfield, Illinois, and Lexington, Kentucky where Mrs. Lincoln was born, and lived the first score of her life.

In Springfield, I became friends with a darling lady, Charlotte Oglesby, the grand-daughter of former Governor Richard Oglesby, a friend of President Lincoln, and one of the two gentlemen to see him into the carriage as he and Mrs. Lincoln drove away to Ford’s Theatre, April 14, 1865.

I was also fortunate to meet Lou Holden, the director of The Mary Todd Lincoln House in Lexington, Kentucky – the first home preserved to honor a first lady. I was delighted to get to know Ms. Holden, and the other staff members of the MTLH, and to further my research.

I also became acquainted with Carol Massey of Lexington – but this story shall wait for another time! It is quite interesting, and very…. well, we shall leave it at “interesting.”

I also became a frequent telephone pal with Samuel A. Schreiner, Jr., author of the 1987 non-fictional, The Trials Of Mrs. Lincoln, a thorough account of the insanity trial, and the former first lady’s clever plot to legally restore her sanity.

Throughout those four years, I became obsessed with MTL’s story, and even worked with a BSU professor who was experienced in Victorian prose, and a local OBGyn who assisted me with the Nineteenth Century’s knowledge of gynecology, uncovering some of the claims made against Mrs. Lincoln.

Around 1988, I met, and fell in love with the phenomenal actress/vocalist, Kathleen “Katie” Pfister-Musick (photo at right). I knew immediately Katie was the right one to portray Mrs. Lincoln on stage, and after 24 years, I still believe she is perfect for the role.

When I moved to Dayton, Ohio the summer of 1990, I put aside my script and score on Love Is Eternal, and absorbed myself in teaching, directing, conducting, traveling back and forth between Dayton and New York with various projects, and by 2000, adopting sons.

Now that life has slowed down a tad (no pun intended, of course), I began looking over the Lincoln musical, again.

Ironically, via Google Alerts, and Facebook, I became E-cquainted with a Mary Lincoln scholar, and actress, Donna D. McCreary, from Indiana. I was quick to learn she is also friends with a dear college friend, and exceptionally talented actor, J.R. Stuart.

The past few days, my new Mary Todd Lincoln E-friend and I have shared several interesting, amusing letters, and my laid-aside interest in Mrs. Lincoln is resurfacing.

1986-1990 took me on a fascinating journey with Mrs. Lincoln, and this coming Sunday I shall re-enter the ring as I present to the Dayton Lincoln Historical Society, a presentation on Robert Todd Lincoln, and his relationship with his mother.

Robert Todd Lincoln – from youth to old age. Last photo shows RTL at the dedication of The Lincoln Memorial with former president, William Howard Taft (then serving as Chief Justice) and President Warren G. Harding.

I was asked by The Lincoln Society of Dayton to offer a presentation on Robert Todd Lincoln, eldest son, and only child of President Abraham & Mary Todd Lincoln to survive into adulthood.

I will be giving this presentation Sunday, June 13th @ 3:00pm at the John Patterson Homestead off of Brown Street.

I am focusing my presentation on the relationship between RTL and his mother, Mary Todd Lincoln. In 1875, Mary Lincoln was judged insane and committed to a private sanitarium following allegations from Robert that his mother was unbalanced.

I want to involve the audience – perhaps, in a mock re-trial weighing some of the evidence from each side.

I have even considered having any actresses (using notes) portray Mrs. Lincoln to help defend herself; but it is kind of late for this.

If anyone has any suggestions, please send them to me:

dljh@sbcglobal.net

Thank you!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 5,173 other followers

March 2017
M T W T F S S
« Sep    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  
%d bloggers like this: