It is Kent Gramm’s first visit to Chautauqua, and already he is dispelling myths. Gramm, the prose writer in residence at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center for Week Three, will give a Brown Bag lecture titled “Perfect Tribute: Writing the Gettysburg Address” at 12:15 p.m. today on the porch of Alumni Hall.
It was the summer of 1885, and Ulysses S. Grant was dying.
Penniless and ravaged with terminal throat cancer, Grant took a northbound train from his home in New York City to supporter Joseph W. Drexel’s Adirondack cottage in Wilton, N.Y. It was in an old wicker chair on Drexel’s porch that former President Grant would spend his final days, drafting his memoirs at a furious pace.
It was Jan. 1, 1863, and Abraham Lincoln was supposed to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. Morning and midday passed, and he still hadn’t signed it. The Rev. Robert M. Franklin, Wednesday’s Interfaith Lecturer, said that slaves and abolitionists across the country began to worry that Lincoln had backed out.
Lincoln had a full schedule that day. He made it to his office to sign the document only after attending a number of New Year’s Day receptions, and then he had to wait for the Proclamation to be rewritten because of a typographical error. But then there was another delay: Lincoln needed time to massage his right arm before he could write a proper signature; he claimed his arm was nearly paralyzed from shaking hands since 9 a.m. that morning.
The BBC, National Geographic, standardized tests, Ken Burns and “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” don’t appear to have much in common. But their common thread is that they’ve all characterized the Battle of Gettysburg as the turning point in the American Civil War. And, according to historian Gary Gallagher, they’re all wrong.
Gallagher, a professor of American history at the University of Virginia, presented Wednesday’s morning lecture in the Amphitheater on how human memories of events and the actual events are often conflicting, which may result in painting a picture of historical events that is not completely accurate.
Abraham Lincoln died on April 15, 1865. In the time leading up to his death, the 16th president of the United States worked to make the country just that: united.
The man who would grow up to save the Union and become unilaterally known as one of the greatest presidents in the United States’ history was born in a one-room shack to a sick mother and a father who struggled to make a living as a farmer.
One could say Abraham Lincoln came from humble beginnings.
Journalist and author David Von Drehle explored these humble beginnings and the man these circumstances shaped in his morning lecture on Tuesday in the Amphitheater. Von Drehle is the author of Rise to Greatness: Abraham Lincoln and America’s Most Perilous Year.
Most children leave Disneyland with a souvenir photo or a pair of Mickey Mouse ears. Seven-year-old David Von Drehle carted home a bust of Abraham Lincoln.
“I can’t ever remember a time when I wasn’t interested in Abraham Lincoln,” Von Drehle said. “A lot of people, the more they know about him, the more they want to know, and that’s certainly the case with me.”
Abraham Lincoln was a Christian president, and he embedded Christian ethics of inclusivity, humility and reconciliation within his speeches, writings and presidency, said Ronald C. White Jr., the author of A. Lincoln: A Biography and Lincoln’s Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural. White presented Monday’s 2 p.m. Interfaith Lecture in the Hall of Philosophy.
White opened this season’s Week Nine religion lecture theme, “The Ethics of Presidential Power,” with a lecture titled “Abraham Lincoln’s Sermon on the Mount: the Second Inaugural Address.”
White began his lecture with a reading of the 701-word document, which only took Lincoln six minutes to read to an audience of 25,000 to 30,000 people on March 4, 1865. At the time the president delivered the speech, the crowd was full of soldiers who had lost limbs during the Civil War, family members who had lost sons and brothers, White said. The atmosphere was turbulent, and already there were threats of Lincoln’s assassination or abduction. Nearby rooftops were strewn with sharpshooters, White said.
In a country hot with debate surrounding the economy, health care, war and gay rights, the ethics of presidential power are closely scrutinized — especially in an election year.
During this week’s Interfaith Lecture Series, experts on American leaders will discuss presidential ethics from the Civil War, World War II and the Manhattan Project, Vietnam and civil rights, and Nixon and the Watergate scandal.
Today, professor and presidential biographer Ronald White Jr. will talk about an ethically conscious, faith-oriented side of Abraham Lincoln that many biographers have neglected. His lecture, titled “Lincoln’s Sermon on the Mount: The Second Inaugural Address,” is at 2 p.m. Monday in the Hall of Philosophy.