FEBRUARY 9th HONORS PRESIDENT LINCOLN AT WVRC
DAN PRICE led the Pledge, followed by LENNY and RICK leading us through The Battle Hymn of the Republic. It must be said that we do better on the chorus than the refrain (which I think they are called). PP JIM COLLINS came forward for the Invocation, and made an excellent beginning when he allowed us to sit. He began by reminding us that President DON had served on the Board of Directors of the Josephson Institute of Ethics, which provided a theme. Question, “What good is religion if it teaches honesty, when almost everyone is dishonest’? And the answer, “Religion is like soap it only works when you use it”. Then his prayer, asking. “Lord, Bless our Rotary members and leaders, our troops who are in harms way, and the disadvantaged all around the world. May each of us do a little better each day to make our world a better place for those who follow” A good combo, JIM thanks.
We had a Visiting Rotarian, Lawrence Miller, an attorney from the Seaport RC, which is near Cape Town in South Africa. President DON allowed as we also had attorneys, and asked them to stand and I commented to my seat mate, “That can invite a fine”. but there weren’t none. WARREN DODSON brought along his wife, Pat, and CANDICE DANESHVAR introduced us to Katia Vaisberg, who is the Rotaract International Chair. LEE DUNAYER was with his wife, Marty. KACY ROZELLE came with his friend, Ed McCardle
This being the second Thursday, Birthdays were up next. Two truants were first apprehended the definition being that they failed to appear on their birthday Thursday, and thus had to pay a ten-buck storage fee for this carelessness on their part. The culprits were HENRIETTA LIAN, who elected November 16th, and BRIAN BUMPAS who came along on January 28th and while HENRIETTA was three times ‘older’ than BRIAN, the fine applies equally. The ‘regulars’ who were noted today included LEO TSENG, who adds some international flavor by choosing Shanghai on the 3rd. Next up was our Honorary Member, DORIS GREATHEAD, who elected Iowa, and the 7th was her 95th! However, LENNY FRIEDMAN wasn’t put off, since he came from Chicago the next day the 8th. ART HENRY liked Cambridge, Mass, on the 11th, while KEVIN KOMATSU got us back to California, choosing Fullerton on the 13th. PDG BILL GOODWYN honored Louisville (and we know you know that’s in Kentucky) on the 23rd, and last (but never least) is DONN CONNER on the 25th in Tulsa. Those present were appropriately serenaded, plus being gifted, of course.
Perhaps being inspired by this recognition, LENNY announced that he had all kinds of anniversaries to celebrate yesterday was his 80th, he and Sunny have been married for sixty years, and that’s about to be the age of Sarah Leonard Jewelers in some nearby town. They are having what looks to YOE like a Polish birthday celebration, in that it goes on for several months. The scoop is that you can enter once a month, and the monthly winners will each receive a gift worth a thousand clams! (Actually, that’s a figure of speech, which I hope you all understand).
Ed McCardle took the podium to give us some background on Corazon. He is a volunteer coordinator, and he pointed out that most of the Mexican’s arriving in Tijuana come from very small villages they are looking for work, and both the parents and kids need lots of orientation to understand the big city. For instance, many rural villages have only a couple of houses that have clocks, which means that the concept of being ‘on time’ is not something most of the newly arrived people have ever even heard of. They are required to take a Gardening Class, which shows them not only that they can grow some of their own food, but makes them part of the local Tijuana community. Nothing is given to them they have to earn what they get, and this comes from helping each other. Those who earn a new home one they can call their own, with a locked front door really deserve this reward. KACY now has his quota of fifty volunteers for Corazon, which will take place on March 4th, and is taking a wait list. This speaks very well indeed for the Rotary creed of helping others congratulations to those who are aboard!
President DON announced the formation of a Scottish Drum Corps, which will perform at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. You won’t be surprised to learn that who else but PETER TOMARKEN pointed out that the group probably had to provide their own skirts. Moving right along, DON has the details (and some other wag wanted to know if MIKE GINTZ would be available to provide a ‘walking cello’ within the group). DON also brought us up to date on the latest Rotary Membership figures. There are 32,317 Clubs worldwide, with 1,206,670 members, in 168 countries.
The story came next. There was a serious wildfire underway, and the photographer was assigned to cover it. He was told there would be a single engine airplane, warmed up and waiting for him at the airport. When his cab arrived, he spotted an airplane just outside the hanger. He jumped in with his camera, slammed the door shut, and shouted, “Let’s go”. The pilot taxied out, swung the plane around into the wind, and roared down the runway. Within a minute of two of his arrival, they were in the air. The photographer then said, “Fly low over the valley, and make two or three passes so I can take pictures of the hillside”. “Why?”, asked the pilot. “Because I’m a photographer from a national magazine, and I need to get some close-up shots”. There was a moment of silence, and then the pilot said, “You’re not the flight instructor”.
SEAN McMILLAN introduced our speaker, J.P. Wammack. 15th has a hobby of giving these Lincoln impersonations he starts growing his beard in January every year! Actually, his dad, H.M. Wammack, was at UCLA with DON and me he was a yell leader and quite active. J.P., like his Dad was, is with Northwest Mutual Life, and lives in Pasadena. He graduated from UCLA, and has been with NW Mutual for 28 years. This year, he is booked for over twenty performances. And this last note H.M. Wammack did the same kind of impersonations for over 15 years!
Before I report on J.P.s talk, I proudly admit to being a long-time, confirmed admirer of Abraham Lincoln. I believe he was our greatest President, and that no one else could have brought us through the Civil War as he did. So if I appear prejudiced, I am
“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Abraham Lincoln and I am the 16th President of the United States”. He then had a couple of questions. Whose picture appears on the Five Dollar bill? Who was the first President who wore a beard? Who was the first President elected by the Republican Party? Who was the first President who had to run for reelection during a War? And, who was the first President who was born in a log cabin? The answer to all these, except the last, was, of course, Abraham Lincoln the log cabin produced Andrew Jackson, well before Lincoln’s time.
I was born in a log cabin, way out West, in Kentucky. All we had out there were trees and Indians. My parents were farmers, and we were poor. We had a dirt floor and for windows, we just cut a hole in the log. We had just three books in the house and I reread them many times. "They were, "The Life of Washington" by William Weims, Aesorps Fables, and the Bible (King James, I'm sure). " That's it and you have to be amazed that from these sources he began to develop his skill in the use of language -but that's another story.
There was lots to do on a farm, and I became an expert tree chopper my Dad even hired me out to the neighbors, and when they paid him the quarter I earned, he kept it. I didn’t like the person doing the work not getting the pay. And I learned one thing for sure I didn’t want to be a farmer when I grew up.
So I left home at 19, and hatched a plan that would make me rich, or so I thought. A partner and I built a raft, loaded it with all the items we wanted to sell, and set off rafting down the Mississippi to New Orleans. It took us six weeks, and we did sell the cargo but we didn’t get rich. The most important thing I learned on the trip was that I saw slavery for the first time. I had never seen a slave before. The way it worked was that one man owned another, just like he might own a cow. The slave did all the work, and the master got the money for the slave’s labor. I didn’t like slavery didn’t want to be either a slave or a master. But as a 19-year old, there wasn’t much I could do about it.
So I returned to Illinois, and tried several jobs I was the Postmaster, became a surveyor, and later, with a partner, started a store. To do this, we had to borrow some money. The store failed, my partner died but I told everyone that I would pay all the money back I had borrowed. It took me three years, but I got it done. And from this, I got the nickname, “Honest Abe”.
I volunteered for the State Militia to fight the Indians in the Blackhawk War. But what I mostly did was kill mosquitoes they were fierce! About that time I ran for the State Legislature and lost. But I ran again two years later, and won. I served four terms, and then a term in the U.S. House of Representatives. But I got discouraged with politics, was against the Mexican War, and returned to Illinois. It was time to earn a living, so I decided to become a lawyer. I borrowed books, studied hard, and eventually passed the bar. Remember, I had no college degree, nor even a high school diploma my entire formal schooling lasted about a year, and it was broken up into “littles”. That is, I would attend school for a couple of weeks, and several months later, get in another two weeks, and so it went. But I was successful as a lawyer. I got married, and we had four sons.
My interest in politics returned, and I decided to run for the U.S. Senate in 1958, against Stephen Douglas. He was nicknamed “the little giant’ and I was foot taller than he was. I challenged him to a series of debates seven in all and they became well known over the country as the Lincoln/Douglas debates. My name was starting to be known, well beyond Illinois. The main issue at the time was the expansion of slavery. Douglas position was ”Let the people decide” but I stated the following:
“A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe that this government cannot endure permanently half-slave and half-free. I do not expect the House to fall. I do not expect the Union to dissolve. But I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other”.
And while my friends felt I had made a complex issue simple, Douglas still won reelection to the Senate. I returned to the practice of law.
Two years later, in Chicago, Republicans remembered that speech, and I won their nomination to be President. Then the Democrats made a mistake. They nominated TWO candidates, Stephen Douglas and John Breckinridge, thus splitting their vote. Breckinridge campaigned for the South and the North to coexist, on a permanent basis. I couldn’t let that happen I believed that America represented the last, best hope for freedom and democracy in the world remember that most of Europe was ruled by kings. I believe that if democracy failed here, it would fail everywhere. Because the Democrats split their votes, I was elected. And the South had said beforehand that if any Republican was ever elected they would secede from the Union.
By the time I took the oath of office, seven states had already seceded . A month later, Fort. Sumter was fired upon, and the Civil War began. It was the worst war we ever had. In some cases, brothers fought against brothers, and fathers against sons. In my own family, my wife’s brother fought for the Confederacy and was killed. Despite the fact that we had four times as many men, more railroads, more ships, more cannon and guns, we were still losing the war. The turning point came in July of 1863, at Gettysburg. A union Army of 100,000 men fought a Confederate army of 70,000, for three full days. While the Union won the battle, it wasn’t a complete victory, since the Confederates were able to retreat, while the Union forces returned to Washington D.C.
The abandoned battlefield was a terrible mess. Dead horses rotted alongside the roads, and the shallow graves of the soldiers were sometime invaded by pigs. The place smelled like death. The governors of the northern states decided that this ought to be a proper burial place for the thousands who died there. Both Union and Confederate soldiers were properly buried, and it was then decided that a Dedication should take place. Edward Everett, the leading orator of the time, spoke for two hours, and I was invited to make a few remarks. I knew the world would be listening, as well as America, and by then the goals of the War had changed we not only needed to preserve the Union, but to make my Emancipation Proclamation effective, we had to win the War. The result was my Gettysburg address of November 19th, 1863 which concluded with these words:
“Let us here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, and that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Less than a year later I had to run for reelection. Many people wanted the war to end, and the Democrats nominated General George McClellan on that platform. We were once again the underdog, but General Sherman captured Atlanta, and that seemed to take the heart out of the Confederacy. I won in a landslide. On April 9th, 1965, General Lee surrendered to General Grant, and the War ended. On April 14th, I went to a play at Ford’s Theatre. There, John Wilkes Booth talked his way into my box, and fired his derringer into the back of my head. I died the next morning.
J.P. Wammack, we thank you for a splendid history lesson and an excellent recital of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address.