By Kerry Plunkett
What is a partner? From the time of kindergarten arts and crafts projects to marriage, it’s one of those words that we hear all of our lives. From spouses, to superheroes, and now historic sites, partners are those who share and support each other in a joint endeavor or cause. Historic sites can take a cue from our favorite childhood superheroes, because now we all have a chance to stand against a silent problem.
This past February, the special exhibit, “Can You Walk Away? Modern Slavery: Human Trafficking in the United States,” opened at President Lincoln’s Cottage. This exhibit is an expression of the power partnerships can give to historic sites. We hear all the time that two heads are better than one, right? With the help of Polaris Project, the world’s leading organization working to combat human trafficking, “Can You Walk Away?” offers visitors a call to action. Polaris Project CEO, Bradley Myles, described his hope saying “we believe strongly that with a big enough movement and enough actors joining this fight while using the right strategies to intervene, we can eradicate human trafficking.” Using the inspiration of President Lincoln, we too can now become a partner in working against modern slavery.
But, why consult and collaborate with partners to meet this goal? It’s no secret that teamwork is an important aspect of life, from school projects, to marketing teams, to museum leaders. President Lincoln’s Cottage and Polaris Project can serve as an example for what goals and legacies successful partners can achieve. Slavery has taken on a modern and more hidden life since the time of President Lincoln. It is difficult for Americans to believe such acts still happen in our country today. How can we end the silence? By building on the hope visitors leave the Cottage with, and gathering as many voices as we can to speak out. Not only is 2012 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, but President Obama declared this past January Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
Voices are what make the difference. President Lincoln used his oratory to speak against the issue of slavery. Today, Polaris Project and President Lincoln’s Cottage invite visitors to use their voices to do the same. Don’t be surprised if you feel a little more powerful, maybe even the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
Have you discovered how many slaves work for you? Take the online survey to discover how widespread and pervasive modern slavery is at: http://slaveryfootprint.org.
 The interview with Bradley Myles, and Callie Hawkins, President Lincoln’s Cottage Curator of Education, is available online at /canyouwalkaway.html.