Can a human being transcend the physical limitations of his or her earthly vessel? Can a person live on through their words and ideas generations after his or her death? Can the top hat make a comeback?
You will ponder all these questions and more when Western student Michael Lang reads the speeches and writings of Abraham Lincoln in full costume from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 14 in Red Square.
The date marks the 144th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination. Feb. 12, 2009 marked the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth.
Lang said he sees Lincoln’s writings, speeches and letters as inspirational and relevant during this time of global crisis, especially after the election of the first black president of the United States.
“I think it’s important to reawaken his ideas to our generation,” Lang said. “Too often his words just lie dormant in a book, and we study them without actually hearing them as they were meant to be heard. His second inaugural and Gettysburg [Address] were some of the most important speeches in American history.”
Lang read the speeches of Robert F. Kennedy for three hours in Red Square on the 40th anniversary of his assassination last year in an effort to raise awareness about Kennedy’s political ideas.
“He’s kind of become one of my heroes,” Lang said of Kennedy.
Lang said he decided to read in Red Square after he saw a student reading the speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., in Red Square on April 4th, 2007, the 41st anniversary of King’s assassination.
“I owe it all to that nameless guy who did it the first time,” Lang said.
Lang, who is a resident advisor at Buchanan Towers and president of the Current Events Forum, said he does not give the speeches as a representative of any campus organization.
“I like spreading information generally, and this is just one more way to do it,” he said.
Although Lincoln’s writings are great in their own right, they take on stronger meaning when spoken, Lang said.
“Abraham Lincoln was an incredibly powerful writer,” Lang said. “He knew the rules of rhetoric.”
Lang will read Lincoln’s first and second inaugural, Gettysburg Address, Cooperstown Address, and some of his letters to soldiers in the Civil War.
“Every generation’s got its own partisan politics,” Lang said. “In his day it was a lot more physical.”
What would Lincoln think of the United States if he were alive today?
“I think he’d marvel at how much the Republican Party has changed in 144 years,” Lang said.
Lang added that he hopes the speeches will serve as a reminder of the trials the United States has faced in the past.
“If we can get through a civil war, then we should be able to come together in tough times like these as well.”