An Anniversary Celebration: Lincoln DVDs For U.S. Schools

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David James / DreamWorks / 20th Century Fox / AP

The 204th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln—16th President and Great Emancipator—is certainly worthy of celebration, and it looks like a lot of people are invited. Specifically, middle- and high-school students in the United States.

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Participant Media announced  yesterday evening, Feb. 11, that Lincoln’s birthday would mark an educational campaign that would include distributing DVDs of the movie Lincoln to every middle and high school, private and public, in the U.S.

Participant’s social-action arm, TakePart, is orchestrating the campaign “Stand Tall: Live Like Lincoln” and will today screen the movie in eight U.S. towns called Lincoln: Lincoln, Ark.; Lincoln City, Ind.; Lincoln, Kan.; Lincoln, Mich.; Lincoln, Missouri; Lincoln, Mont.; Lincoln, N.D. and Lincoln, N.M. The next step will be screenings in March at schools called Lincoln High.

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The goal, of course, is not just to get people to see the movie, which is nominated for the Best Picture Oscar (and scored a Best Actor nomination for Daniel Day-Lewis, along with Best Supporting nods for Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field). A survey conducted by the organizers found that, unprompted and with no limitations, about a third of respondents said that Abraham Lincoln was the historical figure they most admired, with a quarter saying he was the best President in American history—but that most people said they didn’t know much about him. (And rightly so: for example, nearly three-quarters of respondents falsely believed that Lincoln was killed during his first term in office, and 60% believed he was a Democrat.)

So the DVDs will come with an educator’s guide—which may, if it goes into detail, include some facts that contradict the movie’s depiction of the events in Lincoln’s life. In related news, the Hartford Courant, reports that Lincoln screenwriter Tony Kushner had to his decision to alter the votes of the (fictional) Connecticut representatives depicted in Lincoln. In a historical fiction, Kushner explained, accuracy must often be subordinate to the needs of storytelling.