What: “A Conversation With Abraham Lincoln,” featuring James Getty, Lincoln actor and historian; “Mr. Lincoln” will be available for photos and to shake hands following the interview, at the “Let Freedom Ring!” exhibit
When and where: 11:45 a.m. Saturday, July 13, at Center Stage at the California State Fair, then 1-4 p.m. in the California Room of Building A; the fair is at Cal Expo, 1600 Exposition Blvd., Sacramento
Also: The exhibit includes copies of the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech and civil rights footage looping on video
“… (W)e stand in the shadow of a lanky, raw-boned man with little formal education who once … told the nation that if anyone did not believe the American principles of freedom and equality, that those principles were timeless and all-inclusive, they should go rip that page out of the Declaration of Independence.”
— Barack Obama, 2005
What would you be willing to give to have your children shake hands with President Abraham Lincoln? What question do you think they would want to ask him? And in this, the year that marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, what discussions would such an encounter inspire?
Historian and highly acclaimed Lincoln actor James Getty (see YouTube), will be interviewed on Center Stage at the California State Fair on Saturday, July 13, at 11:45 a.m. He will then be escorted by a colorful military honor guard to Building A (the California Room), where visitors like you and your children can shake his hand, ask questions and take photographs with him from 1 to 4 p.m.
Copies of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Gettysburg Address, Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, along with other civil rights exhibits and looping videotape also will be on display.
This event is sponsored by the 3rd Appellate District of the California Court of Appeals. It also celebrates the legacy of Norton Parker Chipman (1836-1924), who was the first presiding justice (1905-1921) of the 3rd Appellate District, our region’s Court of Appeals. Chipman was a friend and contemporary of Lincoln’s, and sat on the platform at Gettysburg when Lincoln delivered his most famous speech.
Chipman was a white abolitionist, a general in the Union Army, a congressman representing the District of Columbia, the author of the order creating Memorial Day, and the prosecutor who tried the war crimes committed in the deaths of 13,000 Union soldiers at the Andersonville Prison in Georgia. After moving to Red Bluff to practice law and to farm, Chipman founded the entity that would become the California Chamber of Commerce.
Chipman loved the county fair and how it brought folks together, a sentiment he shared with his friend, Abraham Lincoln. The two also were friends of abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Also scheduled to attend the July 13 event is Douglass’ great-great-great-grandson, who also is the great-great-grandson of Booker T. Washington.
At the July 13 event, “Mr. Lincoln” will be interviewed by the Honorable Vance Raye, the current presiding justice of our appellate court, a descendent of enslaved Africans from Oklahoma. Expect “Mr. Lincoln” to show a range of emotions during his interview, as he learns that those he led the broken nation in emancipating, one of their descendants, now holds the job of his good friend, Norton Parker Chipman.
I had the opportunity to shake hands with “Mr. Lincoln” at the Smithsonian Institution during the 2009 inauguration of Barack Obama as president of the United States. I am not ashamed to say I was absolutely giddy; I still have the photo.
I have had to make a complicated peace with President Lincoln, and have come to admire him as someone who was not born into greatness, but sought it, developed it, studied for it and then ultimately made the choice to die for it. To grow into what it took to be the one to make the courageous decisions both before and after the Civil War to “… have saved (this nation), as to make, and keep it, forever worthy of saving.”
Lincoln died for what you and I now enjoy, together. Yet, even what we enjoy today, 150 years and counting, is a work still in progress.
What a difference a life makes! Consider the impact of Chipman, Lincoln, Douglass, Truth, Anthony, King, Parks, Robinson, Korematsu, Forbes, Huerta, Chávez.
What a difference a lifetime makes! I was born in 1963, the month before civil rights activist Medgar Evers was shot to death in his driveway in Mississippi. My dad, just a year younger than Evers, and also the father of three young children, wept. Five months later, my dad moved us from my birthplace in Tulare to Mountain View, when my parents were not allowed to buy a house in the neighborhood where they had desired to buy.
“I’m sorry, Bill, I’ve got to live here with these people,” the white loan officer told my dad, his fellow Rotary member.
What a difference a week makes! Our lesbian and gay brothers and sisters are closer to being fully American.
That’s why this opportunity can be so wonderful for us, our families, our community, a starting point for family discussion about the work still to do in this lifetime.
Did you know there are still Native American reservations where there is no running water or electricity? Did you know that Sacramento, with its network of freeways, is the nation’s fifth largest hub for sex trafficking?
Ask your child, “Which classmate had an anguished time in school this year because of bullying and exclusion?” What part, even as a bystander, did your child play?
Sometimes the work of democracy and freedom is so gradual, like the curve of the Earth or its movement on its axis, we get fooled into thinking that motion has stopped. July 4, Juneteenth, the anniversaries of the Emancipation Proclamation and of the March on Washington — these are times when we can teach our children that the arc of history has not yet reached justice for everyone. We are not yet who we can be as a nation. And it is us, each one of us individually and collectively, who bend it to that day.
— Jann Murray-García, M.D., M.P.H., is a Davis parent and pediatrician. She shares this monthly column with Jonathan London. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org