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North Dakota to celebrate Lincoln's 200th birthday

BISMARCK North Dakota, barely through with marking the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark's trek through the state, now is preparing to mark the 200th birthday of a man who never stepped foot here.

BISMARCK North Dakota, barely through with marking the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark's trek through the state, now is preparing to mark the 200th birthday of a man who never stepped foot here.

Folks, get ready for the Lincoln Bicentennial in North Dakota.

President Abraham was born Feb. 12, 1809.

Gov. John Hoeven's spokesman, Don Canton, makes the case for why North Dakota should get involved in the commemoration.

"Through the Homestead Act, his appointment of the Dakotas' first two governors, and his signing of the Land Grant College Act establishing North Dakota State University, President Lincoln had a deep and long-lasting influence on the history of North Dakota," he said.

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Hoeven is one of 37 governors who have appointed state representatives to a governors' council for the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. His is Rick Collin, the communications director the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

Hoeven also has a $50,000 appropriation within in his 2007-09 budget for the Historical Society to use as seed money for Lincoln-related programs and events in North Dakota. The Legislature, currently meeting, will have final say.

Collin further makes the case for North Dakota to mark the anniversary, noting that Lincoln signed not only the Homestead Act that brought waves of settlers here, but also the charter for the Northern Pacific Railroad, whose construction through the state led to the settlement of many hundreds of towns and cities.

Furthermore, he said, "Lincoln's life story represents many of the best qualities of the American character which can be celebrated during the bicentennial."

Collin has produced a "Working Plan for Lincoln Bicentennial in North Dakota," compiling project and program possibilities for North Dakota's commemoration of Lincoln's birthday.

A State Historical Society exhibit at the North Dakota Heritage Center will open in February 2008, coinciding with the official launch of the two-year-long national Lincoln birthday celebration. It will explore the impact the 1862 Homestead Act and 1864 Northern Pacific Railroad's charter had on the state.

The Historical Society is developing a Lincoln curriculum for schools. The North Dakota Council on the Arts and other agencies will host Lincoln-themed annual summer teacher institutes.

Lincoln will be the theme for 2007 and 2008 Governor's conferences on North Dakota History and the state may host a national symposium on Lincoln.

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The State Historical Society will work with the Department of Public Instruction to hold programs at schools named for Lincoln. The two agencies may also republish a 24-page booklet DPI issued in 1909 to mark Lincoln's birthday centennial.

The North Dakota Humanities Council and North Dakota Council on the Arts are considering Lincoln-based events and programs. Collin, chairman-elect of the humanities council, said they'd like to find a historian who specializes in Lincoln, including those who could portray Lincoln-based characters for the summer Chautauqua series.

Cole works for Forum Communication's bureau in Bismarck.

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