My real, personal introduction to Lincoln came during the 1992 presidential election. Reporters were constantly saying, “What we need for a decent political campaign is the Lincoln-Douglas type of debate, not the network TV things with sixtysecond answers.”
Right around then I happened to walk into a bookstore in Pentagon City, Arlington, Virginia. Propped up right in front of me was a book titled The Lincoln-Douglas Debates by someone named Harold Holzer. I went over and grabbed it. That began a process of total Abraham Lincoln immersion.
It led to a segment of the television series Booknotes , and that Booknotes episode led to the idea of our re-creating all the debates. We drove a thousand miles through all seven sites—on to Springfield—and eventually produced the re-creations in 1994. I had to see everything Lincoln, and I think I have.
Now we’ve had more Booknotes shows on Lincoln than on any other person. I’ve seen his log cabin, his stepmother’s and father’s graves, the place where he was born, the house in which he died, his son’s mansion in Vermont, and the Lincoln museums in Fort Wayne and Springfield.
But I think the high point for me was one unforgettable evening when I was invited to speak to a group of Abraham Lincoln impersonators at a Best Western hotel. I got up and faced fifty-seven human beings who looked, acted, and dressed like Lincoln. That’s what I mean by total Lincoln immersion.