Podair celebrates Lincoln’s 200th

Deborah Nixon

The 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln will be celebrated February 12, 2009. To mark this bicentennial year, the U.S. Congress has created the “Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission,” which will oversee activities related to Lincoln’s life and legacy from February 12, 2009 to February 12, 2010. Each state will plan its own activities, coordinating with the national commission.
Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle formed the “Wisconsin Lincoln Bicentennial Commission” April 7, calling for a committee of no more than 31 members to assemble and recommend activities.
Lawrence Professor of History and Robert S. French Professor of American Studies Jerald Podair is one of the 29 committee members appointed by the governor. Podair commented, “I imagine that he [the governor] looked for professors of history from around the state who taught the Civil War, and wanted to have a representative from northeast Wisconsin.”
The other committee members are college professors, secondary school educators, judges, attorneys, writers and other professionals.
The committee, meeting as an entire group every few months and more often in subcommittees, just began to research and plan activities. The committee plans to have a Lincoln conference, speakers, publications, TV and radio spots, musical events and outreach to elementary and secondary school classrooms. The aim of these events will be to publicize, explain and analyze Lincoln.
Podair’s involvement in this commission is just the most recent of his activities involving the Civil War era and Lincoln.
“I’ve been interested in Lincoln and the Civil War my entire life,” said Podair, “and I’m thrilled to be able to teach Lawrence’s course on the Civil War. In graduate school, my dissertation advisor was one of the nation’s great Civil War historians, James McPherson, and I model my own Civil War course on his.”
Popularly known as “Honest Abe,” the U.S. 16th president is revered as having been a dedicated leader throughout the Civil War and in his efforts to end slavery. Podair presented a lecture on these topics in 2004 titled “Lincoln’s Road to the Emancipation Proclamation.”
This lecture was coordinated with an exhibit at the Mudd Library titled “Forever Free: Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation,” which was sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
Podair also led a 2002 Bjorklunden summer seminar titled “Lincoln: Man, Myth, Icon.”
For more information on the Lincoln bicentennial, visit the official Web site at http://www.lincolnbicentennial.gov/