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April 18, 2001

First Lady Kicks Off "Pennies For Lincoln" Drive in DeKalb to Benefit the Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum

DEKALB -- First Lady Lura Lynn Ryan today continued the promotion of the "Pennies for Lincoln" campaign, which offers Illinois children an opportunity to donate spare pennies to help construct the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

During a rally at Lincoln Elementary School in DeKalb, the First Lady talked with more than 300 students, teachers and community members about "Pennies for Lincoln" and the importance of the Library and Museum project for Illinois.

"I can't tell you how proud I am of all of you and how pleased I am about the way DeKalb County has embraced 'Pennies for Lincoln,'" said Mrs. Ryan. "Your efforts are a shining example to schools all over Illinois."

Through a partnership with the Illinois Bankers Association and local banks in every part of the state, school children will donate pennies and place them in special receptacles that have been distributed to every school and bank in Illinois. Later this spring, the receptacles will be collected and the donations tallied.

The "Pennies for Lincoln" packets distributed to schools also include several sample lessons that teachers can use to further the children's studies of history, art, creative writing and science. "Pennies for Lincoln" is designed to be interactive and an educational experience for students, teachers and their families.

All of the money raised by the "Pennies for Lincoln" campaign will be used to fund a portion of the museum called "Mrs. Lincoln's Attic" - a place where children can have fun and learn about the Lincoln family. "Mrs. Lincoln's Attic" will feature historic clothing for dress-up games, oversized Lincoln Logs and other toys, and a dollhouse modeled after Lincoln's Home in Springfield. The "attic" will also feature activities and displays about the way children lived, played and learned in the 1800's.

"On Lincoln's 192nd birthday, we broke ground in Springfield near the Old State Capitol for the first portion of the Museum and Library," Mrs. Ryan said. "You'll be glad to know that the money raised by the 'Pennies' campaign will help create a place where all of you can go to have fun and learn about the Lincoln family- in Mrs. Lincoln's Attic."

At Lincoln Elementary School, students and teachers prepared for the event for weeks and put together a mural of Abraham Lincoln in the gymnasium. The principal and teachers dedicated part of their lesson plans to covering Lincoln every week for the past month.

Mrs. Ryan also reminded the students that almost 60 years ago, Illinois children donated their pennies to help purchase a rare copy of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address written by the president. Only five known copies of this speech in the president's own hand are known to exist.

That copy of the Gettysburg Address was offered for sale to the state for $60,000 (which would be approximately $500,000 today). In the middle of World War II, state government did not have enough money to buy the document. The children of Illinois came to the rescue, donating their pennies and raising $45,000. The remainder was contributed by Chicago department store owner Marshall Field, who said he donated his money because he was so touched by all of the pennies collected by Illinois children.

"I'll bet some of your grandfathers and grandmothers donated some of their pennies to buy that copy of the Gettysburg Address!" Mrs. Ryan told the children.

The library building is scheduled for completion in 2002 and will house the state's world-renowned Lincoln Collection and serve as the new home for the Illinois State Historical Library. The museum is scheduled to be finished in 2003 and will contain state-of-the-art exhibits on Lincoln and his times, audio-visual programs, a restaurant and gift shop.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is being funded through a variety of public and private sources. The State of Illinois has appropriated $50 million for the facility, with the City of Springfield contributing $10 million plus the site. The federal government has provided $2.7 million to help plan the library and museum, and in its most recent session Congress committed $10 million in matching funds. Congress has authorized a $50 million cap on matching funds for the project.

In addition, private fundraising efforts are underway, with more than $4.55 million in major corporate donations to date. Among the donations are $2 million from the Ameritech Foundation to support The Ameritech Holavision® Theater; $1 million from the Motorola Foundation; and $1 million from the State Farm Companies Foundation.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Foundation, chaired by the First Lady, is actively seeking $35 million in private funds to help complete construction and fund an endowment for ongoing public programming.


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