Each year the Lincoln Forum comes to Gettysburg, PA, the site of Abraham Lincoln’s most famous speech. This year marks the 19th annual symposium, and like all the symposia that preceded it, good times were had by all as over 300 learned people learned even more about our 16th President.
This was my first time in attendance at the Forum as the week had always coincided with the annual SETAC meeting. A shift in SETAC’s schedule put me in Vancouver a week early, which freed me up for the short drive to Gettysburg. Based on my experiences last week, I’ll definitely be at the Lincoln Forum in 2015 as they celebrate their “one-score” anniversary.
As luck would have it I was able to meet two Abraham Lincolns (my first presidential photo-op). George Buss, in full regalia, is an active member of the Lincoln Forum. Jim Getty (more on him in a moment) is one of the most revered Lincoln presenters in the country.
The conference was a cornucopia of Lincoln scholars. I was able to meet such esteemed historians as Harold Holzer, Frank Williams, Edna Greene Medford, Catherine Clinton, William C. “Jack” Davis, Craig L. Symonds, and, just one week after seeing them in Washington at the Lincoln Group of DC symposium, Tom Horrocks and Jonathan W. White. If all that scholarship wasn’t enough, noted Civil War historian and Pulitzer Prize winner James McPherson was there with his new book on another Civil War President – Jefferson Davis.
I also had the chance to speak with Daniel Weinberg, owner of the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop in Chicago, IL. A published author himself, Dan has been instrumental in bringing Lincoln book authors to the public, both through store sales and his Virtual Book Signing events. I also spoke several times with David Hirsch and Dan Van Haften, authors of “Abraham Lincoln and the Structure of Reason,” a book that delves into Lincoln’s use of Euclid geometry in his speeches. Given my own work in progress – a book on Lincoln’s “sciencey” side – I felt privileged at the opportunity to get their insights first hand.
Like most conferences, the annual Lincoln Forum symposium includes stellar speakers, stimulating panel discussions, and significant award presentations. Unlike some conferences, the camaraderie is palpable, as both old and new friends gleefully share their interest in one of our greatest presidents.
And then there is Jim Getty. Each year the Lincoln Forum gives the Richard Nelson Current Achievement Award to someone who has contributed to “the spirit of Lincoln in both word and deed.” This year the recipient of the award was kept secret for only the second time, then given to an unsuspecting Jim Getty for his nearly 40-year career as a Lincoln presenter.
Finally, the conference closed with a performance by instrumentalist and singer Bobby Horton, known for his work with Ken Burns on the original PBS miniseries, The Civil War. The best part is that I will get to see Bobby Horton again soon as he provides musical enlightenment during the Lincoln Group of DC’s “2nd Inaugural Address” festivities in March 2015.
David J. Kent is a lifelong Lincolnophile and is currently working on a book about Abraham Lincoln’s interest in science and technology. He is also the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and an ebook Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time