It’s President’s Day here in the US which means two things — no school for the kids and crazy ads for mattresses on TV. I always thought President’s Day was a weird holiday. It’s as though we as a country decided “Yeah, we should celebrate Washington’s birthday, but Lincoln’s is just a couple of days away. If we give one a party, we’ll have to do the same for the other, but man, that’s a lot of cake…. How ’bout we split the difference and give everyone the day off?”
Maybe it’s because I live in Illinois, but I always think of Abraham Lincoln first on President’s Day. A couple of summers ago, we traveled down to Springfield to tour the capital building and learn about Lincoln. The capital building is amazing, a work of public art right in your own backyard.
If you are looking for a great place to take school-aged kids, you should see Lincoln’s Presidential Library. I don’t know what the other presidents do for their libraries, but this one has a replica of the log cabin he grew up in, a couple of shows that combine live theater with special effects, and lots of interactive exhibits.
Two displays really focused the Civil War and his presidency for me: 1) an interactive map of the battleground states and 2) the whisper gallery. Time-lapsed to less than 5 minutes, the map shows the line between the North and the South and how it fluctuated (or didn’t) as battle after battle happened. I was shocked to see how little progress was made during the middle of the war while the casualty count rose dramatically. I think it’s the best tool I’ve ever seen to understanding the war’s devastation on our country.
The other display was the Whisper Gallery, made up of news articles from the muckrakers of the day. I thought today’s political rhetoric was over the top, but this exhibit showed just how much hate and prejudice was spread about Lincoln during his presidency. It doesn’t necessarily make you feel better that our wearisome verbal war in Washington isn’t new, but it does put it into perspective.
After the library, we visited Lincoln’s tomb and rubbed his nose for luck.
And of course, the nose-picking shots…. poor Lincoln.
And one other President’s Day note: last week C brought home a book on the Battle of Bull Run. It’s part of a historical You Choose Adventure book series for kids — very cool. For a kid who reads Harry Potter, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Pokemon books, this sudden interest into the Civil War came from out of nowhere. I asked him why he was interested in it and he said he liked the idea of pretending he had gone back in time to see it for himself. Fair enough.