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Lincoln Forum 2023 -- Reflections

By Debbie Jackson

Washington, D.C.

Monday, December 4, 2023

The LGDC "Sisterhood" at the Lincoln Forum - Pictured here, from left to right. are Bonnie Harper, Carolyn Landry, Janet Saros, Rachel Riley and Debbie Jackson. All are members of the Lincoln Group Study Forum, where they bonded into their sisterhood.

I used to wonder why people attended the Lincoln Forum year after year. Then I attended my first one in 2019, the next in 2021 and this celebration of “Emancipation and Gettysburg’ at 160” and now I know why. I think my biennial pilgrimage will bump up to annual to join my fellow attendees. The event was spectacular.

We had 2 1/2 days filled with presentations by renowned Lincoln scholars, panel discussions, breakout sessions, informal gatherings, a concert, awards, delicious buffets, tours, all things Lincoln, and we still can’t seem to get enough! There are so many highlights, it’s hard to select just a few.

Special for me was meeting Dr. Allen Guelzo not just because of his amazing scholarship but because the Lincoln Group of D.C. Study Forum is currently reading his highly regarded book, Redeemer President. I caught up with him in the hallway between sessions and confirmed his plans to attend our Zoom book study as a special guest early next year! Many of authors of the books we study have joined in the discussions, and Dr. Guelzo has agreed to attend our last session on his book, expected to be held February 10. Speakers and presenters are accessible like that at the Forum.

Listening to Dr. Edna Greene Medford was another highlight for me, again, not only because of the stellar scholarship, but to hear her analyses about Lincoln. She relayed the vehement reactions from some who were upset when she posited that Lincoln was less than perfect. From the time of Frederick Douglass to now and beyond, there has been and will always be criticism that Lincoln was not as aggressive as he could or should have been in dealing with chattel slavery. We all know the pros and cons of Lincoln’s need to appease border states and skittish sympathizers, and the fine line he had to take to nudge the country’s sentiments to abolish slavery. What she didn’t expect were the vehement reactions she received to the point of being vicious and personal. The room quieted with a hush as we appreciated how sentiments about Lincoln continue to evoke deep seated emotional reactions. It was comforting to be in a “family” gathering to share and support such thought-provoking Lincoln scholarship.

Attending the Forum is a reunion of sorts, seeing attendees you’ve met over the years, and appreciating those who have sojourned hundreds of miles driving and flying to be there. Forum staff go out of their way to make you feel at home and welcome. Something’s in the air in appreciating Abraham Lincoln -- this was apparently one of the largest gatherings, and I was thrilled to be a part of it. Here’s a picture of some of us in the LGDC Study Forum—we’ve bonded over monthly book study through the years, consider ourselves a “Lincoln Sisterhood,” and coordinate our drive to the Forum. If I’m lucky and blessed, I’ll be back in the caravan heading to Gettysburg next year.

(Photo credit: David J. Kent)


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