by Moira Cullings
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For the first time in its 24-year history, the University of Saint Mary’s annual Lincoln Event will take place off its Leavenworth campus.
And the new venue has created quite the buzz among organizers.
The Lincoln Event will be held at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri.
“Not only does it move us to the Greater Kansas City area to allow more people to come and see,” said Karenbeth Zacharias, “but it also allows us to think about the conversations that we want to have in a little bit [of a] different way.”
Zacharias is chair of the division of humanities and liberal arts at the University of Saint Mary (USM) and director of the Lawrence D. Starr Center for Peace and Justice.
She and John Shultz, vice president for marketing and admissions at USM, are excited about the new setting. The plan is for the museum to be the event’s permanent home moving forward.
This year’s Lincoln Event will take place on Feb. 21, beginning with a reception at 6 p.m. The speaker portion of the evening will start at 7 p.m.
The topic is: “The Unfinished Business of Democracy: Lincoln, Wilson and the Issue of Race.”
Sponsored by Country Club Bank, the event is free to attend and will be livestreamed for those who are unable to be there in person.
It will include an art contest for local grade school students, which USM students will judge.
The Lincoln Event was created in 1999 to spotlight the University of Saint Mary’s Hall Abraham Lincoln Collection, which is housed in the campus’s Keleher Learning Commons.
“The concept was an annual Lincoln Event to acknowledge, recognize and celebrate the 10,000-piece Lincoln Collection that the university and the Sisters of Charity received,” said Shultz.
The collection was donated by Dr. Bernard Hall in 1969.
“The Lincoln Collection is extensive,” said Shultz. “It’s 10,000 pieces. It’s got a letter signed by President Lincoln and first lady Mary Todd Lincoln.”
Two other notable documents are a copy of a telegram President Lincoln sent to his wife and an original copy of the 13th Amendment signed by Lincoln.
Shultz said what makes the collection even more special is Lincoln’s ties to Leavenworth.
“He gave a key speech here on December 3 of 1859,” he said. “It’s thought of as a speech that helped launch his presidential campaign. Where he gave that speech is where the Country Club Bank of Leavenworth sits now.”
Each year, different experts address various topics during the Lincoln Event.
This year’s speakers are Kate Masur, professor of history and Board of Visitors Professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois; and Chris Capozzola, professor of history, MacVicar Faculty Fellow and senior associate dean for open learning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The moderator is Randal Jelks, professor of American Studies and African and African-American Studies at the University of Kansas, Lawrence.
The style of the talk will be conversational, and there will be an opportunity for both in-person and virtual attendees to participate in a Q&A.
The audience can expect to learn more about Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson, who both fought for a united democracy in the United States in the face of war, said Zacharias.
“Lincoln is known as the Great Emancipator,” she said, “but there was a lot of unfinished promise that didn’t happen with Lincoln’s death.
“Wilson — who was often intimately tied internationally to the idea of the Fourteen Points and self-determination — domestically was a very different conversation.”
Zacharias said the topic of this year’s event is pertinent.
“We really want to remind people that the conversation about democracy in America . . . is one that has been ongoing since the beginning [of the country],” said Zacharias.
“Since the Civil War to today,” she continued, “those conversations — the ones that we have seen particularly convulse the country over the past few years — are [ones] that have happened throughout the history of America.”
The event is also timely as it occurs during Black History Month, she added.
“It is a perfect time to have this conversation on where we are on the continuum by looking backward at these two major figures in American history and certainly in the modern American historical frame,” she said.
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