If Theodore Roosevelt had been invited, all of Mount Rushmore would have been at Washington & Jefferson College Monday for a celebration of Presidents Day.
Abraham Lincoln impersonator and Washington native Gary Ford and the college’s mascots, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, mingled with students, their families and teachers from area schools, which were invited to participate in several Presidents Day contests prior to Monday’s celebration.
Winners of a presidential couple portrait, a Gettysburg Address oration and essay contest were recognized during the celebration, which included dinner and remarks from Lincoln.
Gettysburg Address oration winner, Delaney Bird, an eighth-grader at John F. Kennedy Catholic School, recited the Gettysburg Address from memory for the crowd while donning an era clothing. She said she was honored to be chosen to participate in the evening’s program.
Dr. James Longo, chairman of W&J’s education department, said the college reached out to all schools, public and private, in Washington County as a way to “build a bridge” between the learning institutions. The college sponsored the event in partnership with The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, which provides grants for education and economic development across West Virginia and Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Longo said Presidents Day presented the perfect opportunity to bring “history alive” for area students.
“These are not just names in history books,” Longo said. “They are real people.”
Which is where Ford came into play. Dressed as Lincoln, Ford told tales of Lincoln’s childhood, and what it was like to raise a family in the White House.
Ford, a W&J alumnus who has impersonated Lincoln for 14 years, was thrilled to introduce those in attendance to parts of Lincoln’s personal life which are otherwise unknown. Audience members also had the opportunity to question Lincoln about his life and the time period.
Washington School District Superintendent Dr. Roberta DiLorenzo said the celebration was a wonderful way for students to understand the meaning behind Feb. 17.
“It shows them exactly why we have Presidents Day off,” she said. “It brings the college and the schools together, and it’s a great way to engage the students.”