UNION — Some students got a first person history lesson on the life of America’s 16th president when “Abraham Lincoln” visited Foster Park Elementary School Friday morning.
Second and third grade students met with President Lincoln in the school lunch room to hear him tell them about his life from his birth in Kentucky through his presidency during the Civil War. In addition to sharing with students his experiences, President Lincoln asked them questions during his presentation, giving them the opportunity to respond both individually and as a group.
President Lincoln was actually Mark Dewalt, professor of Educational Research at Winthrop University, who said he has done presenations on Lincoln at elementary schools throughout much of the South and even in the Midwest.
“I’m doing a first person presentation about the life of President Lincoln,” Dewalt said. “I’ve been doing this about 15 years now. I’ve been President Lincoln in Texas, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and Ohio.”
Dewalt said he began doing presentations on Lincoln after some pointed out the resemblance between him and the 16th president. Initially, however, Dewalt said he did not do his presentations on Lincoln as Lincoln, but simply read about him to elementary students.
“It sort of came to me one day when somebody said to me ‘You look like Lincoln,’” Dewalt said. “I had some friends of mine in Rock Hill who were elementary teachers. They thought that ‘Maybe you can come to our school and read books about Lincoln.’
“I did that for a few years and I decided I’d come as Lincoln,” he said. “The kids love that.”
FPES Principal Barbara Palmer said that Dewalt’s presentation as Lincoln to the students was arranged by one of his former students who is now a member of the school’s staff.
“Our guidance counselor, Mrs. Graham, set it up,” Palmer said. “He was one of her favorite teachers at Winthrop.”
Palmer said that having “President Lincoln” visit was appropriate given that he was born on Feb. 12 and that Presidents Day was Feb. 17.
As for students reactions to Dewalt’s presenation on Lincoln. Palmer said they all enjoyed it. She said she hopes “President Lincoln” will again visit the school in the future.