By Congressman Michael Turner
The inaugural festivities for President-elect Barack Obama on January 20, 2009 coincide with the annual holiday honoring the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and also the bicentennial of the birth of the “Great Emancipator”, Abraham Lincoln. It is fitting that the first African American to be elected President of the United States will deliver his inaugural address facing the Lincoln Memorial, honoring the memory of our 16th President, and the place where Dr. King gave his memorable “I Have a Dream” speech in August 1963.
The theme for the 56th Presidential Inaugural ceremonies will be "A New Birth of Freedom." The theme is based on President Lincoln's closing words in his address at Gettysburg, the site of the Civil War’s bloodiest battle. President Lincoln expressed his hope that the sacrifice of those who gave their lives to preserve the Union would bring "a new birth of freedom" for our nation, and his resolve that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” The bicentennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on the life and legacy of the man who ended slavery, saved the Union, and is rightly thought to be our country’s greatest President.
Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin in Hodgenville, Kentucky on February 12, 1809. He spent his formative years in Indiana, and moved with his family to Illinois at age 21. He began his public career as a frontier lawyer, served four terms in the Illinois state legislature, and served a single term in the United States House of Representatives before he was elected to the Presidency in 1860. President Lincoln occupied the White House through four of our country's darkest years and was faced with the daunting prospect of reuniting a shattered nation. He has earned a place in history as one of our country’s most admired leaders.
In honor of the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, and at the behest of President Theodore Roosevelt, the United States Mint issued a redesign of the one-cent coin featuring a likeness of President Lincoln. The coin we know as the “Lincoln penny”, with its profile of the 16th President on the front, is among the most enduring images on our nation’s coinage. The front of the coin includes the motto, “In God We Trust”, which first appeared on our nation’s coins under a law signed by President Lincoln in 1864. Since the Lincoln penny was introduced in 1909, only two designs have appeared on the reverse: the original, featuring two wheat-heads bordered in memorial style, and the current image of the Lincoln Memorial, introduced in 1959 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's birth.
In 2005, Congress passed, with my support, the Presidential One-Dollar Coin Act, a law that authorizes a temporary redesign of the reverse of the one-cent coin in 2009. In recognition of the bicentennial of the birth of President Lincoln, the reverse side of the coin will display four different designs that highlight four prominent periods in Lincoln’s life. The four themes represent a different aspect of the life of Abraham Lincoln including: his birth and early childhood in Kentucky; his formative years in Indiana; his professional life in Illinois; and his Presidency in Washington, D.C. The new one-cent reverse designs will be issued at approximately three-month intervals throughout 2009. The face of the one-cent coin will continue to bear the existing likeness of President Lincoln. It is my hope that this series will generate enthusiasm not just with coin collectors, but will also become an important educational tool for students and schoolteachers.
Each year, the United States Capitol Historical Society publishes a calendar featuring a collection of photographic images depicting the many historic places and monuments in our Nation’s Capital. The theme for the 2009 “We, the People” calendar celebrates the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth and includes daily factoids for each day of the year 1809. My office has a limited supply of these collectible calendars available to constituents of Ohio’s 3rd congressional district. If you would like to receive a complimentary 2009 “We, the People” calendar, please contact my Dayton office at 937-225-2843.