Friday, August 1, 2008
Say you want to journey to Illinois, the "Land of Lincoln" as it so proudly calls itself, in order to learn more about Abraham Lincoln. You've read about all the Lincoln sites in Springfield, the state's capital, and are eager to see them. Perhaps you've read about the time he spent in New Salem and want to see the reconstructed village about 25 miles from Springfield. Or maybe you really want to see the beautiful and historic old capitol building, where Lincoln gave his famous "A House Divided" speech in 1858. You've heard that the Lincoln Herndon Law Offices are worthwhile for a quick tour in order to learn more about Lincoln's law career. And of course you absolutely want to see Lincoln's tomb, an impressive and beautiful structure set in a lovely cemetery in town.
Well, you'd better plan ahead. In its infinite wisdom, the state of Illinois has dramatically slashed the budget of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency due to a financial crunch. To be sure, the state is suffering a $2 billion deficit and apparently nothing in the state budget will be spared. Not even it's most famous resident.
As a result of the crisis, the recreated village of New Salem and the old capitol building will be closed two days per week. Even Lincoln's tomb itself will be closed two days each week. And Lincoln's law office will be open only on Saturdays! Don't worry, though. You can still see "Disney-fied" history at the Lincoln Presidential Museum, even if you can't visit real historic sites associated with Lincoln when it's convenient for your vacation.
You have to wonder about the state government in Illinois. We're coming up on the bicentennial of the birth of the nation's greatest president, a national commission has been formed to celebrate the occasion, and countless other states are getting in on the act. But Illinois? It shuts down many of the best Lincoln sites in the country just as interest in Lincoln is hitting a peak! This decision might save money now, but in the long run, it will greatly affect tourism and the money it brings into the state. But what can one expect when one of the ideas for celebrating Abe is for store owners to put "Happy Birthday, Abe" on marquees in front of their stores.
Simply brilliant. So, Indiana or Kentucky, would either of you like to be the new "Land of Lincoln"? It's obvious that Illinois is willing to give up the title.