A Road Scholar Program by Brian (Fox) Ellis
Abraham Lincoln admired the poetry of Walt Whitman, reading excerpts from Leaves of Grass to clients in his Springfield law office. Whitman revered Lincoln, considering him the embodiment of everything he loved most about the American spirit. Whitman wrote two of his most famous poems, “O Captain, My Captain” and “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” in tribute to the assassinated President. In this presentation, esteemed storyteller and actor Brian “Fox” Ellis re-creates one of the lectures that Whitman delivered annually on Lincoln’s birthday after his death. These lectures interspersed commentary on the significance of Lincoln’s life and work with Whitman’s Civil War poems, including “The Artillery Man’s Vision,” arguably one of the first accounts of post-traumatic stress disorder as experienced by Veterans in American literature. Mark Twain described one such lecture as the most powerful performance he had ever witnessed in a theater. This Road Scholars reenactment of one of Whitman’s lectures seems a fitting commemoration of the sesquicentennial of Lincoln’s passing.