Finding enjoyable movie fare for American history geeks typically presents a challenge. The nature of the genre leaves diehard purists perpetually frustrated. Yet even those of us willing to allow some minor transgressions of fact or character to pass too often are disappointed by the shallow Hollywood luster that insults its audience and kicks a compelling true story to the curb. Now and again, though, one can leave the theater with a contented smile.
On Friday evening my wife and I took in Lincoln at the local multiplex. The usher at Arvada’s Olde Town Stadium Theatre entered the nearly packed auditorium and gave some introductory remarks about the movie’s production and casting. The movie, already a long time in director Steven Spielberg‘s conception, delayed an extra year to give lead actor Daniel Day-Lewis time to research and immerse himself in authentic historic character.
To great effect, the director patiently agreed. Day-Lewis’ performance as the 16th President is not only masterful, but Oscar-worthy. Taking the marble off the man, he eschewed the Hollywood shortcuts for a historically accurate voice (more shrill and tinny than booming and baritone). Lincoln emanates through the screen. Lincoln the father struggles to be attentive, often including his young Tad in important meetings. Lincoln the lawyer (“a sturdy profession”) recollects stories that drive home important principles and strategies, or breaks up the tension with one especially memorable account. (more…)
Leading 19th century American politician James Blaine had a Catholic mother; therefore
The Blaine Amendment he crafted into the state constitutions of Colorado and numerous others were bastions of modern “secular” thought promoting the separation of church and state, as understood by the ACLU and its compatriots; therefore
Republicans in the 1800s were much more secular and enlightened than their contemporary counterparts; and
Forget the fact that parents are given a choice, the Douglas County school board is funneling money to religious schools in violation of a benign state constitutional provision.
Really? Bad history may make for clever political potshots, but beyond that it has little practical use. The leading flaw in Quillen’s column is a fundamental (and willful?) misunderstanding of 19th century American public education — which was “nondenominational” Protestant but clearly not secular as the columnist imagines. (more…)
It’s easy to overlook, especially if you’re not a student of U.S. history. But once upon a time, before the ratification of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, presidents were inaugurated on March 4. Which makes today the sesquicentennial (that’s the 150th anniversary, for Buckeye fans) of Abraham Lincoln swearing the oath of presidential office in a moment of profound national crisis and delivering his First Inaugural Address:
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
Union, eh? No, not that kind of union. Someone must have Labor on the brain. Ripped out of context, though, the powerful conclusion to Lincoln’s inaugural could almost speak to the current heightened domestic political strife with its bulls-eye on Madison, Wisconsin. Not that we have nearly approached the level of crisis in 1861. Nor do we wish for such an outcome.
One of our pastors shared this story from the pulpit yesterday morning about the late Medal of Honor winner Captain Ed Freeman, who put himself in harm’s way to rescue many young wounded American servicemen in the Ia Drang Valley in November 1965. Dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who gave their lives in the military service to help preserve our freedoms:
Spend a moment today to reflect on the true meaning of Memorial Day, and find a way to show your appreciation to a military member, veteran, spouse or family member. And God bless America!
While a certain Democratic ex-President has been trying to exploit the memory of today’s terrible 15th anniversary to take a political cheap shot at millions of Americans, I prefer to commemorate a different anniversary.
Two hundred thirty-five years ago today, American patriots at Lexington and Concord ignited the cause of liberty on American shores. What was nearly unthinkable on April 19, 1775 — a ragtag band of Patriot colonists winning the hearts and minds of many countrymen, the support of the French crown and securing independence from Britain — eventually came to pass.
But the heroism of the farmers and craftsmen in small Massachusetts towns who stood tall against General Thomas Gage’s Redcoats, including of the dozens who gave their lives, deserves its own spotlight today: (more…)
Today — April 9, 2010 — will go down as a memorable day. First, my native state of Michigan officially declared it Ernie Harwell Day in honor of what looks very much like the legendary Hall-of-Fame baseball broadcaster’s last Detroit home opener with us (and bless the Tigers, they beat Cleveland 5-2). Can’t say it enough: Thank YOU, Ernie Harwell.
I’ve also learned that lawmakers from my adopted home state of Colorado have declared today David Benke Day, in honor of the selfless, heroic teacher at Deer Creek Middle School who doubtless helped save student lives from a deranged gunman. I’m honored to have met both of these fine, humble men, and am glad to know they share the same commemorative day. They are both most deserving, each in his own way.
But there’s one other reason to make April 9, 2010 memorable: It’s the 145th anniversary of General Robert E. Lee’s famed surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House — most beautifully and eloquently captured in the memoir of General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, The Passing of the Armies — bringing the great hope of peace to an American nation ravaged by the Civil War. (This one is for you, Snags.)
No political blogging this morning. Instead, a great video tribute to Michigan soldiers who served in the Civil War, with historical music provided by actor and native Michigander Jeff Daniels:
It’s hard for me not to be moved by this tribute, having studied the U.S. Civil War so extensively, having traveled to so many of its battlefield sites, having four ancestors who served in the War (including three who died in the service — one in the 9th Michigan Volunteer Infantry), and having my alma mater Hillsdale College so prominently represented in the 4th Michigan and other regiments:
A higher percentage of Hillsdale students enlisted during the Civil War than from any other western college. Of the more than 400 who fought for the Union, four won the Congressional Medal of Honor, three became generals and many more served as regimental commanders. Sixty gave their lives.
Furthermore, yes, “Michigan, My Michigan” is the official song of my native state.
The 1860s were such a different time in so many ways, and yet there must be some similar sentiments shared by our military personnel on active duty today. Lend a thought or prayer to our troops serving overseas and to their families.
On this 201st anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, no lengthy tributes are needed — I don’t even have time to replicate the modest one I wrote last year for the bicentennial. I did, however, want to take the occasion to recommend a book to you that was recommended to me by fellow RMA blogger Don Johnson about Christmastime.
Lincoln at Peoria by Lewis Lehrman highlights the great turning point in Abraham Lincoln’s political career, the awakening that resulted from the Kansas-Nebraska Act and his powerful October 1854 speech at Peoria, Illinois, which sharpened the distinctly antislavery focus that led to his key role in forming the Republican Party, debating Stephen Douglas in 1858 and ultimately serving as President during our nation’s most trying time. I recommend Lincoln at Peoria among the essential Lincoln books.
But don’t take my word for it. Of Lehrman’s book, Harry Jaffa, the dean of Lincoln scholars, writes:
The Peoria speech was what Socrates would call his “second sailing,” Lincoln’s re-entry into political life, to rescue the principles of the Declaration from the reproach of hypocrisy, to complete the work of the American Founders, and to make possible a new birth of freedom. Lincoln at Peoria laid the foundation for the greatest statesmanship the world has ever seen. We are greatly indebted to Lewis Lehrman’s superb book for helping us to understand why no list, however short, of the greatest speeches of all time could omit Lincoln at Peoria.
Thanks, Don, for the recommendation. Now I pass the recommendation on to all my readers as well.
Speaking of Obama, my PPC friends are licking their chops at the prospect of The One coming to Denver to stump for our appointed junior U.S. Senator Michael Bennet.
Speaking of arrogance, guest writer Don Rodgers at Reclaim the Blue calls out Democrats in our state legislature for their hubris, after shoving through four of the Dirty Dozen tax bills on Wednesday (and are scheduled to hear the rest starting this morning) as a prelude to their dying political majority.
Speaking of death, the New Ledger‘s Benjamin Kerstein gives Howard Zinn, the very recently deceased Marxist historian of A People’s History infamy, a harsh critique more grounded in reality than the one Zinn gave to the United States to manufacture his own career.
Sometimes a look back into the recent past can help glean some important insights into the present. Such is the case with Colorado politics and the potential slate of candidates to replace Governor Bill Ritter as the 2010 Democratic nominee for the state’s chief executive. Do you remember a little over a year ago when so many Democrats were angling for now-lame duck Ritter’s appointment to the U.S. Senate?
In his latest offering, former state legislative leader Mark Hillman praises the “freedom nationally, virtue locally” National Freedom Initiative of Colorado’s own Kevin Miller — not the first time it has crossed my path. It was last year about this time I wrestled a lot with the role social conservatism should play, and something that never strays too far from my mind.
Therefore, I’m very intrigued by this initiative — which, of course, is not altogether new, but rather a very sensible clarification and reformulation for our current political context. The opportunity definitely is there:
To educate many social conservatives on the vital and wholly compatible value of liberty and limited government
To build a strong bridge between the Right-leaning faith-based community and the Tea Party & 9/12 movements (where I’m sure a lot of overlap already exists)
(At the least) To have ongoing, important debates that can help hone views and broader strategies heading into the 2010 election and beyond
Just maybe, Miller is vying to be the Frank Meyer for a new generation of the conservative movement. For more, watch Miller and state senator Ted Harvey hash out the issues on a recent episode of Independent Thinking with host Jon Caldara (parts 1 through 3): (more…)
It’s time to blow the whistle on two erroneous statements that opponents and proponents of the health care legislation being jammed through Congress have been making. Republicans have been saying that never before has Congress passed such an unpopular bill with such important ramifications by such a narrow majority. Barack Obama has been saying that passage of the bill will mean that the health care issue will be settled once and for all.
The Republicans and Obama are both wrong. But perhaps they can be forgiven because the precedent for Congress passing an unpopular bill is an old one, and the issue it addressed has long been settled, though not by the legislation in question.
That legislation was the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854….
In honor of the great Ludwig von Beethoven‘s 239th birthday, why not pop in a CD or MP3 and take in one of his symphonies: maybe the overlooked 1st, the mighty 3rd, the classic 5th, the serene 6th, the passionate 7th … or if you have a lot of time on your hands, the transcendent 9th?