“Now He Belongs to the Ages…”
Last week Mr. Sieg’s AP Comparative Government and Politics Class held a faux funeral for one of the United States’ most beloved presidents, Abraham Lincoln, who died on April 15th, 1865.
The funeral began with Mr. Sieg touching on Lincoln’s background and the events leading up to his untimely death. He then handed the floor over to, ironically, John Wilkes Booth, the man responsible for Lincoln’s death. Senior Richard Novak portrayed Booth and, living up to the role, wore handcuffs throughout his eulogy. Officer Bruner, adding to the comical effect, also escorted him both in and out of the room.
After “Booth,” the tone became a bit more somber with Thaddeus Stevens (played by junior Dylan Burke) going up to the podium to give his speech. Stevens was from Pennsylvania and a member of the House of Representatives. Throughout his presentation, “Stevens” made references to his own personal views as well as discussed the deceased President, with whom he did not always see eye to eye.
Next up was Secretary of State, William H. Seward, (impersonated by senior Christian Armistead). Seward also had his life in jeopardy, but survived the incident. In his presentation “Seward” expressed grief at the loss of his friend, as the two were relatively close given that he was a member of Lincoln’s cabinet.
After Seward came Harriet Beecher Stowe, (depicted by senior Geeta Acharya), who had written Uncle Tom’s Cabin -a popular novel at the time. In her eulogy, “Stowe” compared Lincoln to the main character of her book, stating that they both remained full of faith throughout the adverse conditions they faced.
“Stowe’s” presentation was followed by Harriet Tubman’s, (rendered by senior Naomi Fanelli), who had expressed her sympathies to Lincoln’s wife as well as her gratitude for his efforts in abolishing slavery.
Dorothea Dix (portrayed by senior Angela Alteri), spoke next, and also offered her condolences for the Lincolns’ loss. She also touched upon the Civil War and some of the issues she took a stand for, such as prisoner rights.
Another person that played a direct role in the Civil War was Clara Barton (depicted by senior Vivi Besteman), who worked to find missing army men and ensure that they were given proper recognition and burial. “Barton” mentioned both this and her condolences for the family.
The last to present was Mary Todd Lincoln, who was aptly played by senior Mary Denti. Denti very touchingly portrayed Todd’s grief for the loss of her husband through the mentioning of more personal details, such as his family.
These eulogies were given alongside a powerpoint presentation, which held either pictures or the main points made in each speech. Some of the students took full advantage of this, such as Acharya and Besteman, who inserted images of themselves onto old paintings of their designated historical figure with Lincoln -again adding to the slightly comical tone set by Novak’s presentation. As Mr. Sieg stated in the beginning of the class, “It is a funeral, but that does not mean that there are not humorous moments.”
All of the students did a very good job, as Mr. Sieg said, “Each presentation is a reflection of the student’s own personality, and they were all interesting because of that.”
This is a project that Mr. Sieg has used throughout his years teaching the course, and he expressed that “both years the students got into it, probably more so than I could have imagined.”
Once all of the presentations were given, Mr. Sieg then had the students reflect for a moment on how Americans would react if our current president, Barack Obama, was assassinated. This produced numerous responses ranging from a lack of such a profound emotional response, to an even greater one. These were, thankfully, just suppositions, but it does make one think about how much one man can impact the nation and puts time into perspective. Would Obama or future presidents be memorialized in the same way, or does Secretary of State Edwin Stanton’s quote, “Now he belongs to the ages,” solely apply to this one man?