Lincoln Bicentennial Events
February 12, 2009
Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday Celebration
Each year since the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated in 1922, dignitaries, diplomats, and citizens have assembled in the chamber to honor Abraham Lincoln on the day of his birth.
This year, the National Park Service, the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, and the Military District of Washington, along with the Lincoln Birthday National Commemorative Committee, proudly gathered for this very special birthday celebration. Guest speakers read the Gettysburg Address. Other distinguished guests and officials delivered remarks about America’s inheritance-Lincoln’s legacy.
April 12, 2009
Marian Anderson Tribute Concert
Renowned opera performer Denyce Graves, the Chicago Children’s Choir, Sweet Honey in the Rock, and the Washington National Opera lent their talents in celebration of Abraham Lincoln and the civil rights legacy of opera star Marian Anderson. Described as having a “voice heard once in a hundred years,” Miss Anderson was denied the right to perform in Constitution Hall in 1939 due to the color of her skin. Through the efforts of Miss Anderson, Howard University, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, a new location for the concert was chosen: the Lincoln Memorial.
From the moment that Marian Anderson sang to the nation from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday 1939, she anointed the memorial as a shrine to the ideals of freedom and activated the modern civil rights movement. Those in attendance described her voice “as if it were a prayer” and the performance as a “beautiful awakening.” Miss Anderson herself recalled, “It was more than a concert for me...it seemed that everyone present was a living witness to the ideals of freedom for which President Lincoln died.”
Seventy years later, people again gathered on Easter Sunday to pay tribute to Marian Anderson’s courage and Abraham Lincoln’s legacy of equality of opportunity, freedom, and democracy. A naturalization ceremony preceded the event.
May 30, 2009
Lincoln Memorial Rededication
Four score and seven years ago, Americans of different generations, races, backgrounds, and occupations gathered in Washington, D.C. to dedicate the Lincoln Memorial. President and Mrs. Warren G. Harding, Vice President and Mrs. Calvin Coolidge, Chief Justice William Howard Taft, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Lincoln, veterans of the Blue and Gray, and more than 50,000 others assembled to honor the Savior of the Union.
The Union and unity were certainly the dominant themes of that day. In the wake of the Civil War, racial equality became the law of the land, but racial segregation was the accepted practice, even at the Lincoln Memorial dedication. Such divisions did not exist, however, within the ranks of the Grand Army of the Republic whose veterans proudly sat together regardless of race.
Now, eighty-seven years later, the memorial built to honor Abraham Lincoln continues to bring Americans together in struggles for equality and celebrations of freedom. It remains one of the more visited sites of Washington, D.C.
On May 30, 2009, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar led a group of speakers and performers in remembering the historic dedication ceremony and once again accepted the Lincoln Memorial on behalf of the American People. Among the 2009 participants were the successors of many of the 1922 attendees, including Dr. Benjamin F. Payton of Tuskegee University, Reverend Dr. Roger J. Gench of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, and the United States Marine Band. The National Park Service proudly rededicated the memorial in order to demonstrate that this government—this nation—truly is one of, by, and for the People.