SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — Springfield’s Lincoln Tower apartment complex held a special President’s Day reception Monday morning to honor the legacies of the two American presidents who got their start in politics in the statehouse: Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama.
Teresa Haley, President of the Illinois National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, addressed the crowd and called for more businesses and organizations in the city to take similar action.
“I’m proud of our first black president, and whatever we can do to highlight President Barack Obama, I’m going to do my best as long as I have breath in my body to make sure that we’re doing that,” Haley said.
Mayor Jim Langfelder told the crowd that Lincoln and Obama put Springfield on the “world stage,” and said he supported Haley’s calls for increased visibility of Obama’s likeness in the downtown area.
Christian McWhirter, the Lincoln Historian from the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, told the crowd that Obama “was very aware” of a long shadow that Lincoln cast. McWhirter said Obama “very consciously tried to put himself in Lincoln’s legacy.”
“I think we need to find more ways to recognize Barack Obama here in Springfield,” McWhirter said, “but Lincoln is everywhere in Springfield. You can’t go anywhere without seeing Lincoln.”
The building’s new owner, Avromi Klor, said he read in a newspaper that “there were plans to honor President Obama more here in Springfield, and as happens every now and then in the state capital, the plans got stalled.”
“I was surprised,” Klor said. “You’ll see around Springfield a picture or two or a statue or two of President Lincoln. I mean, we have his name on our beautiful building. But I was surprised as I looked into it how little was done to honor President Barack Obama.”
“Truth be told, it’s unconventional business wisdom for a business to wade into issues that can be considered political. I thought about it, but I also thought you know, back in I think ’66, there was a poll done that [found] two-thirds of Americans did not have a favorable view of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I was astounded to know that,” Klor said.
“Today, of course, almost everybody recognizes what a historic civil rights icon he was, but it took so long,” he said. “And I felt, ‘why do we have to wait so long to recognize and honor history when it’s happening right before our eyes?'”