WestConn to kick-off bicentennial of Lincoln's birth with political debate

DANBURY, CONN. — From a one-room cabin in Kentucky to the White House, Abraham Lincoln overcame poverty and lack of a formal education to become one of the greatest and most influential men in United States history.

At 7:30 p.m. on Wed., Feb. 11, Western Connecticut State University will kick-off a year-long series of events to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of our 16th president with a special “Political Fight Night.” Political Fight Nights will take place every second Wednesday of the month through the semester.

Students, professors and the public will gather in The Club at the Westside Café of the Westside Campus Center, Lake Ave. Extension in Danbury, to debate “If Lincoln were alive today, would he be a Democrat or a Republican?” Members of the audience are invited to present their arguments on a “soapbox.” Each speaker will have four minutes to state his or her case. Audience applause will determine the outcome.

“Lincoln’s story is inspiring. It’s about mobility, advancement and the self-made man and that’s why it is germane to a university setting,” said Dr. Burton Peretti, professor of history and non-Western cultures, who will be helping to organize the events that will include lectures, debates, simulations and reenactments. Gov. M. Jodi Rell has asked each Connecticut State University system campus, as well as other state agencies, to recognize the occasion with events that will be of value today.

Peretti said this is a great opportunity to focus on Lincoln’s life, presidency, the Civil War and Lincoln’s image since his death. “And there’s also his time,” said Peretti. “How is he representative of his time and how would he fit in in 2009? We’ll have events that will have people thinking more about the American past and how it relates to the present.”

“Anything that gets people to talk about history is important,” Peretti said. “Lincoln tried hard to say what the Civil War was about; what we were fighting for and whether it was a power struggle or something higher.”

He said Lincoln’s efforts to reunite the nation, segueing into a war on slavery, helped to define the U.S. “We still argue about what America stands for,” Peretti said. “The idea of America as a model for liberty and freedom dates back to the Civil War era. Lincoln also tried to make the U.S. a model for the rest of the world.”

Peretti said events will be scheduled for both the spring and fall semesters, including lectures on Lincoln by historians from Boston University and Yale University.

The WCSU Lincoln planning committee is still looking for suggestions for upcoming events. Contact Peretti at perettib@wcsu.edu.


Western Connecticut State University offers outstanding faculty in a range of quality academic programs. Our diverse university community provides students an enriching and supportive environment that takes advantage of the unique cultural offerings of Western Connecticut and New York. Our vision: To be an affordable public university with the characteristics of New England’s best small private universities.


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