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Students Celebrate Lincoln's Legacy

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Students from E.L. Haynes Public Charter School perform as part of the Target Oratory Festival at Ford's Theatre. Teaching Artists from Ford's Theatre worked with students and teachers to integrate the speeches into their lessons.
Nate Franz
Students from E.L. Haynes Public Charter School perform as part of the Target Oratory Festival at Ford's Theatre. Teaching Artists from Ford's Theatre worked with students and teachers to integrate the speeches into their lessons.

Jessica Gould

Children from across the D.C. region are taking the stage at Ford's Theatre for a birthday-month tribute to Abraham Lincoln.

Squinting into the spotlight, students from E.L. Haynes Public Charter School spoke the words that echoed throughout a divided nation.

Makenna Waller is in fifth grade at Haynes in Northwest, D.C. She spent two weeks memorizing Lincoln's speeches for Friday's performance. And she says the president's words are inspiring.

"People back then -- they [fought] for your freedom," she says. "They took away their lives so you could be free not just a slave."

Ford's Theatre Education Director Sarah Jencks says learning Lincoln's speeches helps students internalize Civil War history. But, she says, it also helps them find their own voices.

"So that when they have something important to say, they have the words to say it," she says.

More than 350 students from 11 schools are scheduled to participate in the oratory festival, which culminates next Friday. Ford's Teaching Artists help with the preparation.

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