Q: Could you please try to explain the new statue of Lincoln that I recently saw in Chicago? It sits on Michigan Avenue directly across from the Wrigley Building. I found no descriptive placard anywhere. Why is Lincoln talking to this man in an L.L. Bean sweater and chinos? Abe appears to be perhaps signaling his Uber driver with his stovepipe hat. Meanwhile, Mr. L.L. Bean looks like a bass in a Lutheran church choir, holding the Rutter “Gloria.” That’s my reading, but what brings them together? Maybe we’ll never know.
D.S., of Mascoutah
A: Yes, you will, and, honest Abe, maybe Paula Stoeke’s interpretation can quash your grumblings. As a matter of fact, she may even have you throwing your own hat in the air in celebration the next time you see it.
The statue in question is called “Return Visit,” and it was done by 87-year-old Seward Johnson, the same artist who gave Chicago the “Forever Marilyn” statue of Marilyn Monroe in 2011 and the “God Bless America” sculpture in 2008 with its larger-than-life figures of the farmer and his wife from Grant Wood’s beloved 1930 “American Gothic” painting.
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This time, Seward does a little time traveling, transporting one of the nation’s most revered presidents into the modern era to meet perhaps a Gen Xer dressed in beige corduroy pants, sneakers and a cream-colored cable-knit sweater. Rather than the Rutter showpiece, the modern man is holding a copy of a speech that Lincoln didn’t expect to be long remembered after he delivered it on Nov. 19, 1863 — the Gettysburg Address.
It’s meant to show Lincoln “explaining the tenets of the Gettysburg Address and what relevancy those words would have today,” Stoeke, the curator at the Seward Johnson Atelier in California, told the Chicago Tribune. A smaller version sculpted by Johnson can be found near the historic David Wills House in Gettysburg, Pa. In that work, you can see Lincoln raising his hat to point at the window of the room where he had stayed the night before he delivered his speech at the Soldiers National Cemetery.
As further testament to its potential relevance to today’s world, the 25-foot-tall statue of Lincoln was hoisted into place last Nov. 1 just one week before the presidential election that continues to reverberate throughout the country. Paul Zeller, CEO of Zeller Realty Group, hoped the new statue would raise the level of political discourse in the city, if not the country. His company owns Pioneer Court, where the piece was installed.
“We’ve had a very vigorously contested election environment this year,” Zeller said at the time. “We thought bringing Honest Abe back at this time in the final days of this dialogue we call the campaign might remind people that one of the most fundamental things we should be striving for is honesty in our political dialogue, in our exchange, in our debate, as opposed to criticism of each other.”
Maybe now you’ll now have different feelings if you see it again. Search for both the installation and the original at wgntv.com.
Q: I used to donate to the American Red Cross every year. No more! When I found out that they were canceling their ritzy gala at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., I was outraged. Why would they would waste my donation on some lavish, self-serving wingding at some posh club that I could never afford to see the inside of? I still give $100 a month to both St. Jude Children’s Hospital and the Shriners, but if I ever find out they’re doing similar things, they’re going to be out $2,400 a year!
B.C., of Belleville
A: Could I respectfully suggest you calm down just a second and take a second look? Far from indulging in some wild orgy on your dime, the American Red Cross had planned to use Trump’s plush resort to add a cool half-million bucks to its coffers.
Yes, the event that so troubles you was a fundraiser, not some kind of bad boys night out for the group’s grand poobahs. It’s a history that dates back some 60 years, when, according to the Business Insider, cereal company heiress Marjorie Merriwether Post, came up with the idea for the Red Cross to hold a gala fundraiser. At the time, she owned the Mar-a-Lago, and the event soon became one of the main events of the Palm Beach social season and an easy way to raise money for the Red Cross.
In 2016, for example, the Associated Press reported that 500 people were expected to attend, raising $525,000 even after $400,000 in expenses were paid. The year before, that gala along with one other Palm Beach event cleared close to $1 million. And the Red Cross/Mar-a-Lago association continued even after Trump bought the resort in 1985.
Now, after what many believed was Trump’s questionable response to the white-supremacist rally last month in Charlottesville, Va., the Red Cross canceled the event, saying that it had "increasingly become a source of controversy and pain for many of our volunteers, employees, and supporters.” Hopefully, they will eventually be able to reschedule somewhere, but until then I hope you might reconsider your own decision, which was based on a false premise.
What government agency once owned the Mar-a-Lago resort?
Answer to Sunday’s trivia: Reaching an average length of 45 feet and weighing up to 15 tons, the whale shark is usually considered the largest species of fish in the world. One specimen captured in the Gulf of Thailand in 1919 measured nearly 60 feet. Although not related to whales (which are mammals), the shark owes its name to its size and that, like a whale, it is a filter feeder, swimming with its mouth open to scoop up plankton and other food.