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I must admit that the response to the movie Lincoln took me by surprise. I received requests from Australian and Swiss radio, as well as newspapers in England, to answer questions about Mr. Lincoln.
I used clips from the movie in a number of presentations this year. A debate among moviegoers emerged about whether the movie ended in the right place. Some thought it should conclude when Lincoln walked out of the White House for the last time, bound for Ford's Theatre. Instead, after Lincoln's death, the movie circles back in its conclusion to Lincoln delivering his majestic Second Inaugural Address on March 4, 1865.
But only part of it.
In delivering the commencement address at Westmont College on May 4, I told the graduates that what the movie leaves out is what I wanted to sketch in. I have discovered in biographies of significant Americans --two published on Dwight D. Eisenhower this year --that the faith story is left out. Eric Metaxas, biographer of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, makes this point about the movie 42. He says Hollywood, once again, "pitched around" the central faith story.
My primary work this year, from my desk at the Huntington Library, is moving forward on my biography of Ulysses S. Grant. American Ulysses will be published in March or April 2015, just in time for the 150th anniversary of Appomattox, where Grant offered magnanimous peace terms to Robert E. Lee. This year I gave my first two presentations on Grant, at the annual meeting of the U.S. Grant Association and at the annual Ulysses S. Grant Lecture and John Y. Simon Day, held at the Grant National Historic Site, in St. Louis, Mo.
I continue to enjoy the opportunity to speak about Lincoln's faith journey, especially as it is reflected in his Second Inaugural Address. I did so in October 2012 at the 200th anniversary of the founding of Princeton Theological Seminary. When invited to speak in churches, I ask that, in addition to speaking on Sunday morning the churches host an evening "public meeting," co-sponsored with other organizations, apart from Sunday. I have learned that Lincoln can attract people who never go to church, and some actually end up joining that particular congregation. At the public meeting I speak on "Abraham Lincoln 2013: Wisdom for Today," and conclude by talking about Lincoln's faith journey. I have done this doubleheader this year at San Marino Community Church, the First Presbyterian Church of Santa Barbara, and Davis Community Presbyterian Church, near Sacramento.
In April I spoke on Lincoln for the Trinity Forum at an event in Nashville. The Trinity Forum's mission statement is "Contributing to the Transformation and Renewal of Society Through the Transformation and Renewal of Leaders." In May I was elected a Senior Fellow of the Trinity Forum. I am excited as I learn more about the outreach of The Trinity Forum, founded by Os Guinness in 1991 and now led by Cherie Harder.
In conclusion, I am thrilled that my granddaughter, Emily, will enter Whitworth as a freshman in September. What a wonderful "Whitworth experience" awaits her!
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