One of the world’s most revered leaders, Abraham Lincoln, was a Kentuckian. In fact, he said so. In a draft of an 1861 speech, he noted, “I, too, am a Kentuckian.”

His wife, law partners, and personal advisors during the Civil War were Kentucky natives. Born near Hodgenville on Feb. 12, 1809, the 16th president’s family, business, and political associations were closely aligned with Kentucky and Kentuckians.

The international spotlight will be on the commonwealth as the multiyear national bicentennial celebration of Lincoln’s birth is launched in Hodgenville in February 2008. This high-profile event is already in the planning stages and will feature well- known national leaders.

Even now, the Kentucky Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission is highlighting Lincoln’s Kentucky connections to the state.

The Kentucky Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission has awarded grants to area Lincoln museums and is planning exhibits, publications, and educational opportunities, that will all highlight Kentucky’s unique contributions to the life and political growth of the 16th president.

Lincoln’s legacy began here, and the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission is working to promote his statewide associations and message of freedom and opportunity.

The leading edge of these projected commemorative events will be held this June in Springfield. Community planners there, working with the Kentucky Department of Parks, the Kentucky Historical Society, and the Kentucky Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, will commemorate and interpret the 1806 marriage ceremony of Lincoln’s parents in their hometown.

From an economic standpoint, the Lincoln Bicentennial will be good business for Kentucky. Thousands of visitors interested in heritage tourism are expected to visit the commonwealth to learn more about Lincoln’s bluegrass influences and Kentucky’s Civil War heritage during the bicentennial celebration.

Beyond Springfield and Hodgenville, at least 40 other counties are in line to benefit from their connections to Lincoln, his family, and his associates.

Heritage tourism has strong potential to strengthen Kentucky communities. In 2004, cultural and historic travel accounted for an estimated 3.3 million total trips and $510.7 million in tourist spending in Kentucky.

Boyle County alone (home to the Perryville battlefield, Constitution Square State Historic Site, and the Ephraim McDowell House) saw a rise in heritage tourism of 11.2 percent in 2004, bringing $48 million to the county’s economy (Kentucky Department of Tourism statistics).

Heritage tourists spend about $75 for every day they visit Kentucky. Therefore, the multiyear Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial is expected to bring thousands of visitors to the commonwealth and will undoubtedly have a positive economic impact on Lincoln’s native state.

As we get ready to commemorate the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth, let all Kentuckians recognize the historical significance of this celebrated native son.

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