What a way to welcome new Members: Remind them of a modest former one-term Representative from Illinois.
The U.S. Capitol Historical Society will recognize new Members tonight at the same reception where it will honor President Abraham Lincoln in the year that marks the 200th anniversary of his birth.
Society volunteer John Reid suggested that Members of Congress and students in their districts contribute their reflections on Lincoln and put them in a time capsule to be opened on the 250th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth in 2059. Laura Ryan of Heritage Time Capsules in New York donated the time capsule.
Freshman Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) was among the first Members to submit a reflection on the 16th president. Heinrich used his essay to bring Lincoln home.
“During the Civil War, my state served as an important gateway to the West,— he wrote. “While New Mexico found itself in a struggle against the pro-confederacy southern neighbor, under the leadership of President Lincoln we emerged a pro-union territory. Following his tragic death, New Mexicans chose to honor their fallen President by naming a large territory in his name. At the time, Lincoln County was greater in size than the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont combined.—
As of Monday afternoon, the historical society had received about 40 submissions from Members of Congress and about 190 from students.
Schoolchildren involved in the project also offered up their opinions on what made Lincoln important. Abby Frank, a fifth-grader at Horseheads Intermediate School in Rep. Eric Massa’s (D) district in New York, admired Lincoln for his perseverance, even after losing elections and taking a lot of flak over his commitment to end slavery.
“As you can see, that is why we still remember this wonderful, smart, skinny, and inspiring man,— she wrote. “I believe in 2059, Abe, our 16th president, will be remembered for his hard work for being a father, husband, leader, a friend, and most of all a president.—
The reception will also be the society’s first chance to honor the new Senators and Members who were elected to Congress in 2008.
Heinrich and Rep. Steve Austria (R-Ohio), who serve as presidents of the freshman class, will address the gathering, as will Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).
Lincoln impersonator Paul Morella, son of former Rep. Connie Morella (R-Md.), will be on hand to take photographs with attendees and will bring the submissions to the time capsule for those who can’t attend.