Contact: Wendel Sloan at 505.562.2253
ENMU Professor Portrays Abraham Lincoln for Area Schools
PORTALES—What do Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Donald Elder, professor ofhistory at Eastern New Mexico University, have in common? To Portalesarea school children, they are one and the same.
Elder has recently dusted off his black broadcloth suit and stove pipe hat to play one of America's most famous presidents.
Itall began in 1997 when his son's fourth grade teacher asked if he wouldtalk to the class about President Lincoln. Upon accepting herinvitation, she asked if he would be willing to come in costume. Sowith a little help from Eastern's theatre department and a friend ortwo, Elder came in costume to Deanna Davis' fourth grade class inPortales to talk about America's 16th president.
Eldersays he has made approximately 20 appearances in the last eight yearsas President Lincoln, usually in February due to the celebration ofPresidents' Day. He was asked by several area schools to appear thismonth because the state of New Mexico has mandated that schools teachabout the Constitution. Along with his recent scheduled appearances atValencia and James Elementary in Portales and at Floyd, he has filmed aspot for Portales High School that will be used in their Web courses.
"Asa Midwesterner by birth, I have always considered Lincoln a kindredsoul," says. Elder. "I have always been impressed by the fact that helost a son in 1862 and yet he worked his way through his grief tocreate the Emancipation Proclamation."
Partof the reward of playing Honest Abe is watching the children respond.The younger the class, the more questions they have. "A third gradeclass will ask 40 minutes worth of questions, so you don't talk forvery long. However, a sixth grade class will only ask 25 minutes worthof questions, so you can talk for 20 minutes," says Elder.
MikeTerry, principal of James Elementary, says, "Dr. Elder is excellent asAbe Lincoln. Every year he delivers an impressive performance. Thechildren sit enthralled, absorbing every word. The children askquestions, and he has an answer for everything. He is truly an experton Lincoln's life."
"I have beenlucky enough to have spoken to wonderfully receptive classes of allages," says Elder. "I hope they learn more about the personal side ofAbe, and I'm rewarded by seeing kids develop a greater appreciation ofone of the outstanding leaders of all time."
The video of Elder portraying Lincoln can be found at: