Presentation - From Obscurity to Greatness: Illinois and Lincoln, 1830 to 1861

The presentation consists of a first-person portrayal of Abraham Lincoln in period dress, speaking with the audience about his own life and times, in particular about his Illinois years of 1830 to 1861.  While the bulk of the presentation involves Mr. Lincoln reminiscing about his life and times, he does engage the audience by asking questions and interacting with them.  The program normally lasts one hour followed by a time of Q&A, photos, and informal interaction.  For in-person programs, Mr. Lincoln does not use any modern audio-visual equipment (laptop, projector, PowerPoint, etc.).

Mr. Lincoln tells the story of how both he and Illinois rose from obscurity to greatness between the years 1830 to 1861 (relative obscurity in the case of Illinois, and near total obscurity in the case of Lincoln).  Major themes and topics include: the Northwest Ordinance and Territory; Statehood; the Lincoln family arrives in Illinois; the “Sucker State”; the New Salem years; the Black Hawk War; settling and taming the prairie, including the invention of the steel plow; the moving of the capital; A. Lincoln, attorney-at-law; the move to Springfield; the Illinois & Michigan Canal, the railroads, and other “internal improvements”; the Todd family; romance and marriage; melancholy and hard times; the Eighth Judicial Circuit; the Lincolns’ Springfield neighbors, representing the diversity of the town; immigration: enriching the nation; the slavery question; the political world convulsed; abolitionists; the Dred Scott decision; the “House Divided” speech; the Lincoln-Douglas debates; the rise of Chicago; the Republican convention of 1860; Illinois comes of age (Lincoln and Douglas); the election of 1860; secession; the Lincoln family’s farewell to Illinois.

Kevin is very knowledgeable and passionate about this subject, has an engaging presence as Mr. Lincoln, and has experience presenting to and interacting with people of diverse backgrounds and ages.

This presentation is offered in English and Spanish.

Program Topics

  • History
  • U.S. Presidents
  • Illinois

Book this presentation by first scheduling a date with Kevin via email or phone at 708.948.7017, then completing the Road Scholars Host Organization application.


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About Road Scholar Kevin J. Wood

Kevin Wood is a professional Abraham Lincoln presenter who bears a remarkable resemblance to Mr. Lincoln and has a very extensive knowledge of his life and times. He makes appearances and does programs throughout the Midwest in a wide variety of settings, including schools, libraries, museums, senior residences, living history events, churches, conferences, civic/community events, even running races and triathlons. He is fluent in Spanish and offers complete programs in that language, as well as more limited programs in French and German. In addition to in-person programs, he offers virtual programs, both live (video conferencing or live-streaming) and pre-recorded. He also writes a blog – “Loath to Close… Still!” – which encourages others to reflect upon and learn from President Lincoln’s life and legacy.

Mr. Wood is currently based in Oak Park, Illinois, and makes over 250 appearances as Mr. Lincoln per year. He has been on the roster of the Road Scholars Speakers Bureau since 2015.

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About Illinois Humanities Road Scholars Speakers Bureau

Since 1997, our Road Scholars Speakers Bureau has invited Illinois writers, storytellers, historians, folklorists, musicians, and living history actors, among others, to share their expertise and enthusiasm with people throughout our state. It also supports local nonprofit organizations – including libraries, museums, arts councils, historical societies, civic groups, and many others – in presenting free-admission cultural programs of high quality to their communities for a modest application fee, which can be waived if your organization is experiencing financial hardship.

Our Road Scholars Speakers Bureau roster features speakers hailing from many different communities across Illinois who offer presentations on topics in history, archaeology, philosophy, literature, theater, film, music, politics, and other subjects that are thought-provoking and engaging. The breadth of these offerings reflects our conviction that the humanities can help us to examine the world in all its varied shades and discover in it the remarkable, the strange, the fantastic, the tragic, the humorous, and the beautiful.

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