28 NOTABLES Dale Jirik as Abraham Lincoln
For more Lincoln lore Want to revisit the history lessons of long-forgotten school days? The Lincoln Club of Topeka will jog your memory and impart a vast amount of new information on Abraham Lincoln that you probably never learned in school. The group has gathered regularly for 43 years. Dale Jirik has been a member for 42 years and is on his third term as president of the group, which meets eight times a year, September though May (except for January). Meetings are at 7 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. At each meeting, a member gives a presentation on some aspect of Lincoln’s life or the Civil War. Annual dues are $10. Guests are welcome. (785) 266-5492. The Kansas Historical Society is also featuring the Lincoln in Kansas exhibit through July 26 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. Artifacts associated with the life and times of the nation’s 16th president will be on display. For more information, visit www.kshs.org.
For Jirik and other Lincoln enthusiasts, the writings, thoughts and legacy of Lincoln offer insights to the past and relevant commentary on the present.
drink is to an old toper.” Through good storytelling, Jirik brings to life the personality of Lincoln—his character, honesty and integrity. “I share his love of fellow man and philosophy of ‘do no harm.’” Self-education was a theme in Lincoln’s life and a theme that Jirik emphasizes to children. “Lincoln had only one year of formal education. He was self-educated. I tell the kids that if he had a school like they have today, he would be in seventh heaven. I try to stress that if you are not in class, you can still educate yourself by reading. A lot of times Lincoln wasn’t able to get a formal education because there was no teacher in the backwoods of Kentucky.” Jirik concludes his presentations with question-and-answer sessions. What burning questions do today’s youngsters have for Jirik as he channels Lincoln? “They want to know how tall am I, how many children do I have and if I have any other clothes.” While Jirik revisits history to inspire adults and children, he notes that the history being made today is very much influenced by Lincoln. The 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth was celebrated on February 12, 2009. The bicentennial celebration coincided with the inauguration of Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States—an event that Jirik believes would have raised Abe’s eyebrows. “He’d probably have an opinion!” laughs Jirik. “Obama really brought up the connection in his campaign and he referred to Abraham Lincoln. Who can speak for Lincoln? I think he would be pleased with the progress of our country that we have now elected an African American to the presidency. … Let’s hope that any future president can be as honest as Lincoln was.” If not, Jirik and Lincoln aficionados like him will be around to remind them, honestly portraying the life and legacy of Honest Abe.