Lincoln Ideas Forum 2017 Recap

On April 13, 2017, President Lincoln’s Cottage hosted our third annual Lincoln Ideas Forum. We launched this program in 2015 for the 150 anniversary of Lincoln’s last visit to the Cottage, the day before his assassination. Our goal is to commemorate the ideas he created and the work he accomplished while living here, as well as to highlight his unfinished work.

This year the forum, subtitled “Hate of the Nation,” explored injustice, division, fear, and hate, alongside the stories and ideas of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. Speakers included: Dr. Rebecca Barrett-Fox (Arkansas State University), Dorie Ladner (Civil Rights activist), Seth Levi (Southern Poverty Law Center), Alex Nowrasteh (Cato Institute) and moderator Laura Schiavo (George Washington University).

For video of the event, click here.

For bio of the speakers, click here.

The Program

Ms. Dorie Ladner “We Who Want Freedom Cannot Rest”

Ms. Ladner talked about her life and struggles in the pursuit of justice for mankind. She told stories dealing with voting rights and fighting hate in the 1960s. For more information, about the kinds of things she addressed, visit the Zinn Education Project website:

Mr. Seth Levi: How White Nationalism Fuels Hate

Reconstruction marked the beginning of the end to white supremacy in the United States. Since then, many racists and hate groups have been motivated by a white nationalist ideology that sees the “white race” as being under siege by people of color and immigrants. The beliefs and goals of these extremists have hardly changed in the last 150 years, but their tactics to mainstream hate has become more sophisticated. Today, purveyors of hate don’t always wear white robes or even use racial slurs. Many wear suits and ties, hold advanced degrees, and even testify before Congress. And now that the end of the white majority is in sight, they are in an opportune position to herald in a resurgence of white nationalism.

Mr. Alex Nowrasteh: Tips for Debating Immigration

The debate over immigration policy is not a struggle between grand ideological camps with separate and rigid orthodoxies. Rather, it is characterized by bubbles of competing information whereby those with anti-immigration opinions are more likely to be incorrect. Revealing some of the simple facts about immigration, such as the percentage of the country that is actually foreign-born and how difficult the legal immigration process is, can go a long way toward convincing moderates and skeptics. Further, understanding some quirks of human psychology can give a significant leg up when arguing with those who are still unpersuaded. Lastly, politely and consistently addressing the legitimate concerns of immigration restrictionists will convince some moderates but probably not on the extreme – which is fine.

Dr. Rebecca Barrett-Fox: Measuring Hate by its Consequences

How are some of our most hateful actions motivated by some of our deepest loves? This presentation considered how members of one hate group, the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, by seeing themselves as loving, engage in some of the most hurtful, hateful behavior imaginable: picketing funerals. It asked us to think about how our own love for good and noble things — God, family, country — can inspire hateful acts that harm others, and made us wonder when we might need to sacrifice our own loves in order to end or prevent hate.

Lincoln’s Relevance

After the program, we asked some of our partners “How do you view your work today in connection to what Lincoln and his contemporaries achieved during the Civil War?” to reflect on the conversations that had occurred at the event.

Lecia Brooks, Director of Outreach, Southern Poverty Law Center:

“Lincoln and his contemporaries helped bring our nation closer to fulfilling its promise of equal justice and equal opportunity for all. As a civil rights organization that has spent the last five decades seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society, the Southern Poverty Law Center continues this important work of ensuring our nation lives up to this fundamental promise.”

Dr. Rebecca Barrett-Fox, Assistant Professor of History, Arkansas State University:

“In his second inaugural speech, Lincoln wondered if the violence of the Civil War would continue ‘until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword.’ He understood that more than 250 years of hatred toward black people had been used to justify slavery and that this hatred would not disappear — not from the hearts of whites nor from the memories of African Americans — simply because of emancipation. Americans are often tempted to say that slavery was ‘a long time ago,’ but Lincoln recognized that racism’s consequences stretch over generations — maybe as many generations ahead of us as came before us. White Americans, in particular, must be dedicated not just to ending racism but to repairing its damage.”


See below for some photos of the event, courtesy of Bruce Guthrie.

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