February 20, 2009

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Lincoln’s birthday inspires musings and memories

Shirley Vogler MeisterBy now, most readers know that Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday will be celebrated in many places and many ways for a year.

Of all the presidents of the United States, this ongoing salute to Lincoln is not only appropriate, but also much needed for the American people at a time when acceptance and tolerance too often still fall far short of perfect.

Also—and I’m only one of countless others who have said this—I rejoice at how appropriate it is that a man whose ancestors might once have been slaves is now the first black man to hold the highest office in America.

Although I did not vote for President Barack Obama, I pray daily for him and his family. I ask that God fill him with wisdom and truth so he can guide our country in Godly ways. Of course, that includes the preservation of sacred life at all levels of existence—from womb to tomb.

Letting my imagination run free, I believe that Lincoln smiled from heaven at the outcome of November 2008’s election and January’s inauguration of President Obama. Those who have studied Civil War history can surely understand this.

However, the purpose of my column is not political. Instead, it is to share a unique tribute to Abraham Lincoln called Happy Birthday, Mr. Lincoln: A Commemorative Collage. It features art, music, poetry and prose in honor of President Lincoln.

As some readers know, I am a member of the National League of American Pen Women (NLAPW) headquartered in Washington, D.C. My husband and I once visited the organization’s headquarters, the Pen Arts Building in the historic DuPont Circle District.

The building was the home of Robert Todd Lincoln, the son of President Abraham Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln. Also, an early Pen Woman, Vinnie Ream, is the only woman to sculpt Lincoln from life. Her statue, often referred to as the “pensive Lincoln,” now stands in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

My husband, Paul, and I were fortunate to tour the Pen Arts Building during the 1990s after the U.S. Holocaust Museum was opened. Our main purpose in going to the nation’s capital, however, was to deliver historical material that we serendipitously inherited from very dear former neighbors, Joseph and Margaret Weiss. They settled in Indianapolis after fleeing Vienna, Austria, when the Nazis took over during World War II. I think Lincoln would have approved of our mission.

The commemorative book about Lincoln is from Pen Arts Press. For more information, log on to www.nlapw.org or write to Pen Women Press, NLAPW, 1300 17th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036-1973. The cost of $25 includes shipping.

My poem, “Abraham Lincoln’s Counsel (1864-2008)” is included in the book. I shared the poem with The Criterion’s “Faithful Lines” readers on Feb. 21, 2003, and it is posted here.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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