Four hundred Spokane-area schoolchildren, most of them from West Valley School District, filled the seats of the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox on Thursday as part of a national teach-in on Abraham Lincoln.
Thursday marked the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth.
Three historians and a moderator answered questions from students over a live webcast from the National Archives in Washington, D.C., shown on a large video screen at the Fox.
In Boise, schoolchildren and dignitaries pulled on ribbons attached to a star-covered drape, and Idaho’s restored Abraham Lincoln monument was unveiled in its new spot south of Idaho’s Capitol.
West Valley schools focused this month on Lincoln because of his significance to American democracy and race relations.
“Obviously we learn a lot about Lincoln, but never to this kind of depth or the knowledge we got today,” said City School teacher Jason Remington.
Erika Folmer, a seventh-grader at City School, said she found one detail most interesting: “I didn’t know he had kids, how well he was as a father.”
Lincoln was devoted to the older of his four sons after two younger ones died, the children were told.
The program used a series of broadband connections across the country to bring students together in a collaboration between History.com and the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. It was hosted locally by the Spokane Symphony and the Fox.
Also Thursday, several dozen people gathered at the Lincoln statue at Main Avenue and Monroe Street in downtown Spokane for a wreath-laying.
Members of the Washington Civil War Association – dressed in uniforms and clothing of the period – provided a color guard. Several carried firearms of the day. The event was organized by the Esther Reed Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
“He had honor, strength and courage,” said Julie Pittman, regent of the chapter. “May we continue to remember Abraham Lincoln. May he always stand tall here in Spokane.”
Pittman said that Lincoln’s decisions and his ability to define the principles of the Declaration of Independence led directly to the civil rights movement and helped pave the way for the election of President Barack Obama.
The ceremony in Boise included dozens of schoolchildren who helped collect $3,000 in pennies to refurbish and move the historic, life-size bronze statue from its obscure location near a veterans home.
Idaho has the oldest surviving Lincoln monument in the West, first placed in 1915.
As part of the commemoration, the Idaho Legislature passed a resolution declaring Lincoln the honorary governor of Idaho Territory for the day. Lincoln was offered the position of governor of what then was called the Oregon Territory before he became president, but turned it down because of objections from his wife. As president, he created the Idaho Territory and helped choose its name.
“Lincoln’s most lasting legacy to Idaho and the nation was opportunity,” Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little told the crowd.