As the 10 o'clock hour approached, folks began to gather at the
front doors of the new Lincoln Heritage Museum on the campus of
Lincoln College. They were there to show support of a long, hard
effort to bring the new museum to fruition, and of course, to be
among the first to get a peek inside at what from now on can easily
be called "the gem" of the college, if not the entire city and
county, and we dare say, maybe even the Looking for Lincoln
As folks arrived, there were plenty of handshakes and
smiles. This was also the college's alumni reunion weekend, so some
of the attendees were also enjoying a chance to visit old friends
The official ceremony began with Lincoln College President John
Blackburn taking the podium and welcoming everyone to the momentous
"This is a dream realized," he told the group. "It is a dream
that we had for a lot of years, starting in the late '90s, and
probably truly was (the dream of) the leader of that time, Dr. Jack
Blackburn expressed gratitude to all the contributors, from state
resources to local benefactors, for their financial support of the
museum. He acknowledged the presence of chamber, city and county
board members, and made special note of former state Sen. Larry
Bomke in attendance.
He acknowledged past and present college board members and a
recently formed group, Friends of the Museum.
He added much-deserved thanks to the maintenance, security and
dining staff, the faculty, and residents of the college for their
hard work. He finished by saying, "I think God blessed us today,
too. What a day he gave us."
Blackburn then introduced Anthony Bedford, who sang the national
anthem. Bedford was the recipient of the Marvin D. "Swede" Johnson
Award, given to the freshman student who is deemed to have
contributed the most to the welfare of fellow students throughout
his or her involvement in the total Lincoln College community. He is
vice president of Life Changing Studies, a Bible study group formed
by LC students, and a member of the college chorale and chamber
After Bedford's beautiful rendition of the national anthem,
Blackburn returned to the podium to introduce nationally known
Lincoln scholar Dan Weinberg. Weinberg is a Lincoln College trustee
and chairman of the Lincoln Heritage Committee. He was involved in
the design of the new museum and worked to assure historical
accuracy in the museum.
Weinberg opened by saying, "Now the eternal question begins: Is
this a college with a museum attached, or a museum with a college
attached?" He continued by saying that the museum is as much a place
of learning as the college itself.
He said Abraham Lincoln still has much to teach us all, and that
is what the museum is about. He quoted the museum motto: "Learn like
Lincoln. Live like Lincoln."
He went on to say: "We are artifact-oriented, as artifacts tend
to place us in the moment. As you view the various artifacts on
display and read the various storylines, don't let the numerous
trees obscure the entire forest. For it is Lincoln, the forest, that
(is) made up of so many different aspects, like a multitude of trees
in a forest. That is the man whom we seek to understand and
Weinberg went on to name specific people, groups and committees
who throughout the history of the construction of the museum
contributed through their vision and leadership, and he remembered
with sorrow those who were dedicated to the college and museum and
did not live to see this great day for the college.
The next guest speaker was state Rep. Rich Brauer, who Blackburn
said had been a great friend to the college and a great supporter of
the museum project.
Brauer began by saying that when first elected 12 years ago, a
friend gave him some sage advice about the city of Lincoln. "She
said, ‘Stand next to Sen. Bomke. They love Sen. Bomke in Lincoln,'"
Brauer recalled. "We are very lucky to have had a senator like that
who served this area."
Brauer then acknowledged Bomke in the audience, to a healthy round
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Brauer talked about how Abraham Lincoln was embarrassed by
his lack of formal education. He said that Lincoln educated
himself, even during the Civil War, and strove to be well
informed. Therefore, it is fitting that a college, where young
people can learn and grow, should be named for this president.
He added that Lincoln was also one who would be embarrassed by
the attention he has been given through the college and museum; that
he would be humbled to see how many were present; and how he would
also be honored.
Blackburn next introduced Mayor Keith Snyder — first joking that
Snyder was employed by "the other university" in Lincoln — but then
went on more seriously to say that the mayor and the city have been
great supporters of Lincoln College and the museum.
Blackburn supportively said that Snyder is working hard to
preserve the history and heritage of the Lincoln community through
several organizations and complimented him, saying, "That work is
Snyder opened with comments concerning Daniel Day-Lewis, who
played the starring role in the Steven Spielberg movie "Lincoln." In
an interview, Day-Lewis said he thought that having himself cast as
Lincoln was a bad idea, even after the filming of the movie, "but by
that time it was too late." The actor said: "I had already been
drawn into Lincoln's orbit. It was a very powerful orbit. Which is
interesting because we tend to hold him at such a distance. He's
been mythologized almost to the point of dehumanization. But when
you approach him, he almost instantly becomes welcoming and
accessible, the way he was in life. He draws you closer to him."
Snyder went on to say: "The interesting thing is, we didn't
create the mythology of Abraham Lincoln. We slept, and ate, and
walked, and joked, and worked with Abraham Lincoln. In fact we were
so taken with the gentleman that we named our community after him in
1853 — the only community in the world that did that. To the Lincoln
College students here today, and to those sleeping in, I would say
to you: This demonstrates that we see greatness long before others
do and that we see greatness in all of you."
Snyder finished by saying, "He is not a myth here." He said the
city is very proud of the museum and the college.
Before introducing museum director Ron Keller, Blackburn said
that Sen. Bill Brady was present to make a special presentation.
Blackburn noted his appreciation for Sen. Brady and his support of
Lincoln College. He said Brady and Brauer are always asking how they
can help Lincoln College. "It is really refreshing when your
legislators are asking how they can help you," Blackburn said.
Brady took the podium and congratulated everyone on the opening
of the museum. Brady said he's read a lot of books on Abraham
Lincoln, all of them important, because Lincoln is someone from whom
we can learn the strength of perseverance, the importance of God and
faith, and the importance of humanity.
Brady then presented Ron Keller with a certificate from the
Illinois Senate, "acknowledging the opening of this wonderful asset
to the State of Illinois, county of Logan, and city of Lincoln."
[By NILA SMITH]