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October 2017

October 2017 — Teens Are Following in Lincoln’s Footsteps

“We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others, the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name — liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names — liberty and tyranny.”
— The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VII, “Address at Sanitary Fair, Baltimore, MD” (April 18, 1864), pp. 301-302.

Written by Abraham Lincoln in 1864, these thoughts are alive and well in the hearts and minds of the high schoolers who participated in the 2017 Students Opposing Slavery Summit at President Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington, DC.

Launched in 2013 as a way for young abolitionists to network with their peers, the International Summit takes place in late June. This year 26 students participated from five countries: the United States, India, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia.

“The Summit is a formative and inspiring time for these students,” explains Callie Hawkins, director of programming at President Lincoln’s Cottage, where she is in charge of the annual Students Opposing Slavery Summit. “They engage with survivors of modern slavery, modern abolitionists working in the anti-slavery field, and each other, to create campaigns that they will launch in their own schools to raise awareness and get others involved in the contemporary fight against slavery.”

Scroll down to learn more from Hawkins and the students. We know you will be as impressed as we are. — David Bruce Smith, founder, and Hope Katz Gibbs, executive producer, Grateful American™ Foundation

Words of Wisdom: Abraham Lincoln, 1859

“Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it.”

Grateful American™ Series

Here's Your Front-Row Seat to the 2017 Students Opposing Slavery Summit

By Callie Hawkins
Associate Director for Programs
President Lincoln’s Cottage

Students Opposing Slavery (SOS) is an award-winning youth education and modern abolitionist program at President Lincoln's Cottage, a nonprofit historic site and National Monument in Washington, DC.

Following the Summit, students remain engaged with President Lincoln's Cottage and their network of peers as they take the modern abolition movement back to their schools and communities. To date, 136 students from 23 countries have attended the Summit.

Scroll down to hear some of their take-aways.

MoreBe sure to click here and watch the CNN feature on the 2017 Summit. 

Questions: Send me an email at And click here to learn more about SOS:

Abhishek Basu: “My journey has just begun.”

There exists two worlds: a sheltered one filled with an abundance of opportunities, and another one characterized by harshness and brutality. At 16 years, I had the chance to experience the stark realities of the latter. It was life-changing for me to visit Sonagachi along with team members of Apne Aap Women Worldwide, an Indian organization that empowers girls and women to resist and end sex-trafficking. Sonagachi has several hundred brothels, and thousands of workers in the sex industry.

My initial feeling was one of apprehension as we entered the area. Multiple emotions coursed through me as I was exposed to the atmosphere of the place. It's as if the very earth was trying to protest the innocence that is disfigured there. Congested lanes were filled with more people than you can imagine. Children ran about, their eyes reflecting poverty and sadness. And, of course, the women. They were there in throngs.

Young women of different ethnicities, all in heavy make-up and flashy clothing. They stood provocatively at the edge of the streets, hoping to attract customers. Men all around kept a watchful eye on them. I left knowing that my perspective towards life would never again be the same.

A week later, I landed at Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC, one of two fortunate people from India chosen to attend the Students Opposing Slavery (SOS) International Summit.

My heart skipped a beat when we arrived at President Lincoln's Cottage, the conference site. The place was surrounded by a burial ground for the thousands of soldiers killed in and after the Civil War. The atmosphere was electric. It was as if the ghosts of those valiant soldiers were chanting in unison and supporting our cause.

When we toured the cottage, we could almost sense the presence of the Great Man himself. We were struck by his humility, his kindness, his dedication to his country and fellow man — and how good he was at checkers!

This was where the Emancipation Proclamation was signed and where Lincoln had once talked about his unfinished work. He had understood that slavery hadn't completely ended. Something within me felt that he was passing the torch to all of us. For a moment, I truly believed I had the power to impact millions of lives. A power that each and every one of us possesses.

That first day made me realize the magnitude of the problem that we are facing. Human trafficking is far more than just a simple crime. It’s a thriving $200 billion industry that reaches into every nation across the globe.

The in-depth discussion got going on the second day when we students presented the problem from the perspective of each of our countries. Next we had a presentation by the youth leaders from MTV EXIT (End Exploitation and Trafficking), which spreads awareness about human trafficking through music. Since music is universally loved, it’s a great medium to use to foster awareness among people. This idea really excited me.

The next few days flew by as we listed to speakers from various organizations. I was very affected by the account of a survivor named Poonam, who was 12 when she was trafficked from Nepal into India. Condemned to work in servitude in a brothel in Mumbai, Poonam managed to escape during a police raid. She is now 18, back in school, and dreams of becoming a social worker. She is a living testament that survival is possible, and that we don't have to cling to the trauma of our past.

If there's one thing I learned from this trip, it is inspiration — the thought that I can make a difference. I left knowing that my journey had just begun.

Lydia Miller: “I now understand how possible it is to change the world.”

During the last week of June, I assisted with the fifth annual Students Opposing Slavery (SOS) International Summit here at President Lincoln's Cottage. We hosted 26 students from across the world to raise awareness of human trafficking — better known as modern slavery.

We heard from some of the country's leading anti-slavery advocates, law enforcement, businesses that actively remove slavery from their supply chain, and a survivor of human trafficking. I learned a lot from these leaders in the field, and I learned even more from the summit participants. These students were some of the most intelligent teenagers and young adults I have ever met. They all shared a desire to be a part of something larger than themselves and were genuinely passionate about contributing to changing our shared world.

Among the tidal wave of information we learned that week, what astounded me most were the basic facts about modern slavery. Human trafficking is truly a hidden crime — to the point where it is nearly impossible to get an accurate count of slaves in the world today; statistics range between 21 million and 40 million enslaved people across the globe. There are several types of human trafficking — labor and sex being the most common — and human traffickers, on average, receive a lesser sentence than drug traffickers, assuming they are convicted at all. Risk factors make some people more vulnerable than others. Every day, human beings are bought and sold for an average of $90. I was as shell-shocked by this information as the students were, if not more so.

What I learned during SOS could fill pages and pages. The educational aspect was so significant that I noticed I was still scribbling down what speakers said even after they finished their presentations so that I could reflect on it later in the day. The students, on the other hand, were raising their hands, asking questions, making notes on how to incorporate the latest information they had just learned into their projects.

They were ready to apply the facts to raise awareness, while I was still trying to comprehend them. It was evident that they were ready to dive in headfirst, each new bit of information further fueling their excitement to get involved.

The best part of the summit to me was that the students were so passionate about ending slavery, each in his or her own unique way. They were all incredibly different, but came together at SOS to learn the tools they will need to change the world. Everything they learned from the speakers, as well as the international ties of friendship they have created, are going to build on their newfound enthusiasm to end modern slavery.

Students presented (solo or in groups) their ideas on how to take what they learned during SOS back home to their communities. I was awed at the excitement in the eyes of each of the students when they held up their notes and rough sketches of their ideas. You could tell by the energy in the room that they had the support of their peers surrounding them, 100 percent. The change in attitude from the beginning of the week to the end was palpable.

After being immersed in the possibility that we can end slavery, I am confident that we are going to succeed.

Lydia Miller, the President Lincoln’s Cottage 2017 summer programs intern, is a history and humanities major at Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC.

Don’t stop yet! Click here to learn more about the Students Opposing Slavery Summit at President Lincoln’s Cottage. 

This month in history

Who was John Brown, and how did he die?

October 16, 1859 — Today, Caucasian abolitionist John Brown led 21 activists in a raid on the federal arsenal in Harper's Ferry, which was then part of Virginia (now West Virginia). He was defeated by a detachment of U.S. Marines led by Col. Robert E. Lee.

Brown had originally asked Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass — both of whom he had met in his formative years as an abolitionist in Springfield, MA — to join him in this raid. Tubman was prevented by illness, and Douglass declined, saying later that he believed Brown's plan would fail.

After the raid, Lee and volunteer aide-de-camp John Stuart searched the surrounding country for fugitives who had participated in the attack. Brown was taken to the courthouse in nearby Charles Town for trial, and found guilty of treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia. He was hanged on Dec. 2, as witnessed by the actor John Wilkes Booth, who later assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.

Illustration: Published in Harper's Weekly.

Sources:, wikipedia/JohnBrown,

Read more…

History Matters

Congratulations to Ohio’s Sara Ziemnik, 2017 National History Teacher of the Year

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is pleased to announce that Sara Ziemnik from Rocky River High School in Ohio has been named the 2017 National History Teacher of the Year.

Ziemnik will be honored at a ceremony in New York City on Nov. 8, where Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Eric Foner will present her with the award and a prize of $10,000.

"When it comes to classroom instruction and content delivery, Sara Ziemnik is a master at her craft," says Robert Winton, principal at Rocky River High School. "Students are engaged through Socratic Seminars, role-playing, and other creative ways to relay historical events to high-school kids. An item that isn't normally measured by national or state-mandated evaluation models is the ability to develop and maintain relationships with students. She is able to teach rigorous content and hold high learning expectations, all while keeping a smile on her students' faces."

Read more…

Book Club

“John Wilkes Booth: A Sister’s Memoir,” by Asia Booth Clarke

"John Wilkes Booth: A Sister's Memoir"
By Asia Booth Clarke
Edited by Terry Alford
180 pp., University Press of Mississippi

Reviewed by David Bruce Smith
Founder, Grateful American™ Foundation

A gypsy read John Wilkes Booth's palm and predicted tragedy. "Ah, you've a bad hand; the lines all cris-cras [sic]. It's full enough of sorrow. Full of trouble. Trouble in plenty, everywhere I look. You'll break hearts. …  You'll die young, and leave many to mourn you … but you'll be rich, generous, and free with your money.

"You're born under an unlucky star … you'll make a bad end. …  You'll have a fast life — short, but a grand one. Now, young sir, I've never seen a worse hand, and I wish I hadn't seen it, but every word I've told is true by the signs. You'd best turn a missionary or a priest and try to escape it."

Afterwards, when the prophecy fulfilled, the Booth family was denounced for Abraham Lincoln's assassination and never forgiven by the country. They were hunted, hounded, and harassed for the rest of their lives. Asia Booth Clarke immigrated to England to dodge the deluge, because she was "personally unknown" there, and she never returned.

Read more…

In The News

CNN Reports: Students take up Lincoln’s fight to end slavery

CNN, September 19, 2017 — On CNN today, the Students Opposing Slavery Summit at President Lincoln's Cottage was featured with the headline, "Students take up Lincoln's fight to end slavery: Teens from around the world attended the Students Opposing Slavery Summit, held at the cottage where Abraham Lincoln drafted the Emancipation Proclamation."

Click here to watch the report. 

Read more…

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