The George Coon Public Library, together with Kentucky Chautauqua, will present Abraham Lincoln: "I, too, am a Kentuckian" at 6 p.m., July 16, at the George Coon Public Library auditorium.
Born on a farm in what is now LaRue County, Kentucky, Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) spent his early years in the Commonwealth. When he was seven, his family moved to Indiana, and later Illinois. But as his native brilliance and burning political ambition carried him to the presidency and greatness - a panel of historians recently chose him as the most influential American who ever lived- Lincoln always had connections with his native state.
In his law office in Springfield, Illinois, he had a partner, William "Billy" Herndon, who hailed from Greensburg, Kentucky. His best friend in Springfield was Joshua Speed from Louisville. His wife, Mary, was from Lexington, a daughter of the prominent Todd family. And his political role model, a friend of the Todd family, was the Kentucky statesman Henry Clay. During the Civil War, Lincoln was unpopular in Kentucky, but when he said, "I, too, am a Kentuckian," no one could dispute it.
Though he never came close to winning Kentucky in a presidential election, and was reviled by some of the state's most outspoken residents, Lincoln always regarded Kentucky with affection. And he never lost sight of its strategic importance in the Civil War.
"I think to lose Kentucky," he said, "is the same as to lose the whole game. Kentucky gone we cannot hold Missouri, nor I think Maryland."
Lincoln read Kentucky newspapers, knew the thinking of opinion leaders, and was sensitive to the state's strong attachment to the institution of slavery. Despite imposing a sometimes harsh military rule, he was able to keep Kentucky in the Union, but few Kentuckians thanked him for it until after he was dead.
Greg Waltermire of Lexington portrays Abraham Lincoln for Kentucky Chautauqua. Waltermire, who holds a PhD in educational policy studies and evaluation from the University of Kentucky has been active is regional theater and appeared in a few independent films. He firmly believes Kentucky has a history worth telling.
Kentucky Chautauqua is an exclusive presentation of Kentucky Humanities with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and from: Christina Lee Brown, the Carson-Myre Charitable Foundation, the Cralle Foundation, the Elsa Heisel Sule Foundation, Farmers State Bank, the Hayswood Foundation, the Honorab;e Order of Kentucky Colonels, Morehead State University, Mountain Telephone, Murray State University, Paducah Bank, People's Rural Telephone Cooperative, PNC, the R.C. Durr Foundation, and Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky.
Kentucky Humanities is a non-profit Kentucky corporation affiliated with the National Endowment for the Humanities. For more information, visit kyhumanities.org or call (859) 257-5932.