WASHINGTON – An advisory committee to the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission met Monday to discuss plans for a nationwide birthday party.
The commission,appointed by Congress,is basing the two-year-long event around themes relevant to Lincoln – freedom,democracy and equal opportunity.
“What Lincoln did and what Lincoln stood for is a life worth celebrating,” said Michael F. Bishop,the commission's executive director.
The bicentennial celebration is scheduled to begin Feb. 12,2008,in Lincoln's birthplace,Hodgenville,Ky. Committee members plan to include music,a presidential speech and the dedication of a plaque or statue at the event.
Washington will hold the celebration's climactic event on Feb. 12,2009,Lincoln's 200th birthday. The committee plans to televise a rededication of the Lincoln Memorial.
A commemorative coin is also a goal for 2009,but the commission must appeal to Congress soon to secure a two-thirds vote,said Jennifer Rosenfeld,program director. The coin would be a source of revenue for the celebration.
The commission,along with the Library of Congress,plans to create an exhibition of Lincoln's popular writings and artifacts. The exhibit will open in Washington and travel to other major cities during the two-year celebration.
Commissioning musical works,storytelling festivals and a playwriting contest are all potential parts of the celebration. To mark Lincoln's love of theater,a Lincoln and Shakespeare project is being planned.
The commission is reaching out to state and local governments to encourage public involvement and to create programs. Governors from 31 states have appointed liaisons to aid in local bicentennial planning.
Although Lincoln is a favorite president among Americans,obstacles such as public apathy and funding exist,said David Early,the commission's communications director.
“Not everyone is as interested or cares as much about Lincoln as we do,” he said. However,public participation is less of an issue than funding.
To fund such a large undertaking,the commission must raise $100 million,Early said. Fund-raising efforts will begin in July. The advisory committee,composed of Lincoln scholars,historians,collectors and academics,will play a large role in securing public,corporate and foundation donations.
The money will fund programs produced by the commission,but state and local programs will have to find their money elsewhere.