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March 15, 2014

Gilmore Car Museum Highlights Presidential Visits This Weekend

Abraham Lincoln In 1856, when future president Abraham Lincoln spoke in Kalamazoo’s Bronson Park, he was a minor political figure taking part in a campaign rally for the first Republican presidential candidate. Four years later, Lincoln was elected our 16th President. Just two years after Lincoln’s visit, Kalamazoo Central High School opened, becoming Michigan’s first public high school. In 1859, its first graduating class totaled 8 students – 5 boys and 3 girls—and the school went on to become a model for public high schools nationwide. Within 150 years, Barack Obama was elected as the nation’s 44th President and the students of Kalamazoo Central had won the President’s 2010 Race to the Top Commencement Challenge. Their prize was having the President come to Kalamazoo and delivering the commencement speech to the Class of 2010. This Sunday, April 13th at 3pm, the Gilmore Car Museum’s Spring Speakers Series highlights these two Presidential visits with Lincoln scholar Tom George and former Kalamazoo Central principal Von Washington, Jr. During their lecture, you’ll learn of new research and discoveries into President Lincoln’s visit and hear fascinating behind-the-scenes stories and little-known facts about President Obama’s visit. The Sunday afternoon presentation is only $5 per person, or free with regular Museum admission. The lectures are appropriate for all ages and walk-ins are welcome, as no registration is required. Kalamazoo’s Bronson Park was the scene of the August 27, 1856 rally for presidential candidate John C. Fremont and one of the speakers— Abraham Lincoln—was unknown by most of the people that had gathered. After Lincoln’s speech, the crowd, estimated at 10,000 to 20,000 people, erupted in applause. “The speech helps show the evolution of this thinking,” explains Tom George, a Kalamazoo-area historian, former state senator, and respected Lincoln Scholar. “It was actually Lincoln’s only known visit to Michigan and for the people of Kalamazoo and the surrounding area, that’s something to be proud of,” George said. “It shows how our community connects to the larger stream of events.” Von Washington Jr., now Executive Director of Community Relations with The Kalamazoo Promise, served as Kalamazoo Central High School’s principal from 2007 to 2012. At the announcement of President Obama’s planned visit in 2010, Washington said he was thrilled that his student’s accomplishments had gotten the president’s attention. The 1,700 students from Kalamazoo Central had competed against 1,000 other high schools nationwide to showcase the significant strides on personal responsibility, academic excellence and college readiness they were making. After 170,000 online votes narrowed the schools to three finalists, President Obama made the final selection—Kalamazoo Central High School. Whether your interest is presidential, pre-Civil War era, or local history, or perhaps you have a connection to Kalamazoo Central’s Class of 2010, Sunday’s presentation, “Presidential Visits to Kalamazoo,” will be a rare treat. The Gilmore Speaker Series events are always engaging, entertaining and informative for the entire family. Our upcoming presentations in the Series include: “Dave Rockwell – We Were the Ramchargers” Sunday, April 27th Dave Rockwell – Author and Former Mopar Ramcharger Team Member “B.S. Levy – World’s Fastest Novelist” Sunday, May 4th B.S. Levy – Race Driver, Author of 5 novels including “The Last Open Road” The Gilmore Car Museum – America’s Signature Collection is located just 20 minutes north of Kalamazoo or 45 minutes south of Grand Rapids. For more information on the Gilmore Speaker Series or other events, please visit or call (269) 671-5089.