Continuing Lincoln's Fight For Freedom Across the Globe — Part 5

This video is part of a blog series following Callie Hawkins, Associate Director for Programs at President Lincoln’s Cottage, in Southeast Asia on an awareness trip inspired by our current special exhibit commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Can You Walk Away?. Featured in this video are representatives of “Students Opposing Slavery,” a student run organization that is committed to improving the world by raising awareness for human trafficking.

In the video, SOS representatives discussed their meetings with NGOs and President Lincoln’s legacy. Callie also discusses those meetings in her written report (below), and she sheds light on why people around the world may not be familiar with President Lincoln.

Today we arrived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia where we will finish our trip.  What a beautiful place this is-even with more traffic than in DC!

Our first order of business for the day was to meet a US native who now lives in Cambodia and runs an NGO in the city that provides jobs and career programs to survivors of human trafficking.  This particular NGO is the gold standard for survivor recovery across the nation.  It was a meaningful encounter, to say the least.

While waiting for our tuk-tuk to deliver us to our next meeting, I had a chance to speak further with this director about President Lincoln’s Cottage, what Lincoln did while he lived there, and our special exhibit on modern slavery.  I referenced my surprise that none of the native people I’d met so far, whether in Thailand or Cambodia, had ever heard of Abraham Lincoln or the Emancipation Proclamation.  Most of our international visitors at the Cottage, including those coming with groups on unrelated businesshave knowledge of Lincoln, particularly his rise from humble beginnings and his role in ending legal slavery in the United States.My new friend reminded me that people in these countries only learn about the historical context of slavery as it relates to classes in economic development rather than in a more traditional survey course on national history(if then).  Furthermore, while these countries have rich and long histories, for the most part they are cultural histories tied to ancient dynasties and religious rule, and not civic histories that call for and invite civic action that might be great sources for inspiration on today’s issues.

This has me thinking a lot about how the Cottage talks about Lincoln’s big ideas and their ability to inspire people to be more active participants in our democratic process.  What do you think are the benefits and/or challenges in invoking the past to inform the present?


In February 2012, President Lincoln’s Cottage unveiled Can You Walk Away? Modern Slavery: Human Trafficking in the United States. This special exhibit challenges perceptions of slavery in America today and raises awareness of a growing humanitarian crisis. By posing the question, “Can you walk away?” this exhibit inspires people to engage with the modern abolitionist movement and to see that slavery is an ongoing issue that requires big thinking and direction action, just as it did in Lincoln’s time. First Lady Laura Bush endorsed the exhibit, calling it “an invaluable lens through which the public can view our country’s ongoing struggle with slavery — both in the historical context and in present day trafficking. Exhibits like this are evidence of the way historic places can shape the way we live in the present.” Can You Walk Away? was created in partnership with the Polaris Project, the leading NGO in the United States fighting modern-day slavery. The exhibit is schedule to run through August 2013 in the Robert H. Smith Visitor Education Center.

Polaris Project is a leading organization in the global fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery.  Named after the North Star “Polaris” that guided people escaping slavery along the Underground Railroad, Polaris Project is transforming the way that individuals and communities respond to human trafficking, in the U.S. and globally. By successfully pushing for stronger federal and state laws, operating the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline (1-888-373-7888), conducting trainings, and providing vital services to victims of trafficking, Polaris Project creates long-term solutions that move our society closer to a world without slavery.  Learn more at

Students Opposing Slavery is a student run organization that is committed to improving the world by raising awareness for human trafficking, a form of modern day slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others. For more information visit

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