Lincoln Legacy Lecture discusses education

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Photographs courtesy of Mounika Bayavarapu

The Brookens auditorium was packed Oct. 12 for the University’s annual and extremely popular Lincoln Legacy Lectures, which focus on how President Abraham Lincoln’s legacy can still be felt and studied. 

This year’s lecture series focused on the intersection of Lincoln and Education and touched on the former president’s own educational background as well as how he still influences today’s school system.

First speaker Dr. Robert Bray, an American literature professor at Illinois Wesleyan University, talked about the texts Lincoln likely would have been reading, growing up as a young man in Indiana.

“[Lincoln] became literate beyond the levels of his family or his neighbors,” said Bray. “At age 15, Lincoln was the best reader, writer, speaker, and performer in the community.”

According to close friends, Lincoln was heavily shaped by the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the 18th century poem, “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” by Thomas Gray.

Next speaker Paula Shotwell, a Springfield teacher and founder of the fifth-grade Living History program, spoke on Lincoln’s impact on modern education. She explores how students are currently learning about the past in today’s increasingly technological society.

Finally, Dr. Michael Burlingame, a Chancellor Naomi Lynn Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies, took the stage and focused on Lincoln’s own views on education from when he ran for his first political office at age 23 up until the end of his presidency.

“I view [education] as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in,” said Lincoln early in his political career.