Walt Whitman’s Birthday Party Celebration

>>Sasha Dowdy: Welcome
everyone to the Library of Congress Young Reader Center. My name is Sasha. I’m the Program Specialist
here and I work here with my colleague Monica, to bring programs
to kids and help you connect with the kinds of
materials that we have here in the Library of Congress. And things that are
interesting and relevant to you. And today is really
special because it’s the day after Walt Whitman’s
200th birthday. And we are really excited
to celebrate this here with our special guests
and with you guys here. We have really wonderful
collections about America’s – one of the most famous
[Inaudible] in America, Walt Whitman. And we’re going to learn a
little bit more about him. And if you want to see what
kind of collection items we have from Walt Whitman you can
visit the online exhibit and research guide. And the link to that is
guides LSU.gov/Walt Whitman. And there’s also
information online about that. And you can also come
visit us on Monday and see some really rare
artifacts, like letters and handwritten drafts
and things like that. So Whitman who was
a really famous poet and he was really
famous for writing, but also learning all the
time and we might know that he wasn’t always writing. He might have said some things
that we don’t agree with now, but we just wanted to
kind of start off by celebrating the fact that
he was always learning and he was always trying to
figure out the world around him. He was trying to understand how
to be a better human and I think that we can all connect with that and we can
take that message with us even beyond this
birthday celebration. So today we have two
really special guests to help us celebrate this day. We have author Bob Burleigh and we have illustrator Sterling
Hundley, and they’re here to talk about their book
“Oh Captain, My Captain, Walk Whitman, Abraham
Lincoln and the Civil War.” And this was published
this year by Abrams. And there’s a copy right there. And we have asked our author and
illustrator to sign the book, so you can pick them up at the
gift shop after the program. So quick intro, Bob
Burleigh was born in Chicago and has been writing
for 35 years. And he created one of
40 children’s books. He writes many kinds of stories
like survival and biographies and adventures, sports,
science, poetry. I don’t know what
you’re not interested in. And the common thread
of the stories is that they’re really interesting
and they’re full of hard facts, but also the intensity
of the moment; so you can really feel
what it was like to be in that moment in history. So we are going to
feel right in the thick of the story of Civil War today. And Sterling is from
Roanoke, Virginia. He is on this coast of
painter, illustrator, designer. He’s worked for Marvel and
[Inaudible] and Washington Post and by worked for I mean
created some wonderful artwork with them. He’s received many awards
and is considered one of the best illustrators
in the field. Very cool. And he has done some really
cool things like illustrate one of the classics, our favorite Turner Island so you can
see his work all around. Other than being an
illustrator and painter, he’s also a professor at
Virginia Commonwealth University and he’s an innovator and he
brings together communities of people who like
to create together. So that is all I want to say to
prepare you guys to be excited about this program
and we are going to ask you guys to take it away. Thank you very much. [ Applause ]>>Robert Burleigh:
I’m Bob Burleigh. And I’m very, very happy to
be here on this special day. I’ve love Whitman for as long
as I can remember writing. And that can’t be that
long, but [Inaudible] and I’m just very happy to be
able to write a book about him and this [Inaudible] but I also
in passing just like to pass on some thanks to the
book publisher, Abrams, my editor Howard Reeves, the
Library of Congress of course for having us and
Sterling Hundley for being the excellent
illustrator. We just met this morning. I already love the guy and I
love – I already loved his work. So I’m very happy to be
here and going to the book that we published right now
is not a full scale biography of Walt; it is a birth to death. And he had a very special what
should I say, relationship to the country as you well
know and to Abraham Lincoln as he got to know him. He didn’t know him
personally, they had never met. But he loved him just the same. And I was so happy somebody they
proposed this book to Abrams and it started out
[Inaudible] book on Whitman, but then the editor said,
“Let’s add Abraham Lincoln.” And I’m saying what is that
another 500 pages of reading? What do we do here? But anyway I was very
happy to do that. This is – so this is a – I’m
going to read from the book, which we call “Oh
Captain, My Captain.” And it’s called that because
it’s really a – trying to sort of relate Whitman to Lincoln, by the way they’ve
never met each other. Walt was a [Inaudible], okay and I will just try
to read [Inaudible]. And each one of my little
page [Inaudible] starts out with a [Inaudible]
from Whitman. Okay, so that’s I am
the man, I suffered. I was there. The bearded man in the
entryway softly closes the door behind him. He paused this, standing
perfectly still for a moment he lets
his eyes grow accustomed to the flickering light. Lamps hanging from the
walls cast a halo glow over a long room,
lined with cots. Many containing a
wounded soldier. The man hears the sound
of breathing the rustle of a body somewhere [Inaudible]. The [Inaudible] the gloom, the stench of sickness
is [Inaudible] hospital. Suddenly the stillness
is pierced by a single sharp [Inaudible]. Oh, oh, oh – is it
coming from near, is it coming from over there? The man in the doorway
steps lightly across the creaking floorboards,
the wounded soldier so young, boy merely stares straight up
the fixed wild [Inaudible]. A stain of wet blood seeps into a crumpled bandage
around one shoulder. The man tries with
careful fingers to straighten the bandage. The boy’s pain throws
[Inaudible]. He stares into the
bearded face above him. Who are you he seems to ask? For a moment the
man says nothing. He holds the soldier’s
hand firmly in his own warm hand,
then he speaks. Hello, I am Walt. I am Walt Whitman. Walt Whitman – is this
Walt Whitman a poet? What is a poet doing here
in the foul smelling gloom of the Civil War hospital? Among the wonder, the
dying and the dead. One answer to that question
comes from Walt Whitman himself. I’m not going to
read the whole book; I’m going to read several pages. Okay? And again, the quote
at the top says “I am large, I maintain multitudes.” Taken from poems,
letters [Inaudible]. He called himself Walt
Whitman, an American. One of the roughs, a cosmos. Sometimes he was a poet,
other times he was a nurse, a comrade or a journalist. And finally he was the
mourner and a chief for the nation’s
greatest president. Could any person be all
these things and more? Yes. For Walt had a generous
soul and a large ambition. Large enough to become
America’s first great poet. I [Inaudible] early [Inaudible]. I celebrate myself
and see myself, and what I [Inaudible]
shall assume for every [Inaudible]
belonging to me, belongs to you. Large enough to talk about Walt, large enough to praise both
the tiny and the immense. I believe a leaf
of grass is no less than the [Inaudible]
to the stars. But [Inaudible] enough to include all people
in this vision. I am [Inaudible] the young. I am the [Inaudible]
the same as the man. Large enough to identify
the most mistreated person. I am the hounded slave. I [Inaudible] the fighting dogs. As Walt himself said, he contained multitudes
and [Inaudible]. Okay, I’m not going to read
this entirely but Walt kind of predicted, very
interesting to me. In the last decade before the
Civil War when there’s a lot of tension between the
northern and southern states and so forth and so on, and besides that the government
[Inaudible] looked to Walt and many other people as being
sort of weak and crumbling. In the late 1850’s
America’s special [Inaudible] to achieve [Inaudible] for all. This very democracy seemed
to Walt dangerously at risk. For several years he felt a dark
cloud and gather [Inaudible]. Slavery, corruption, bribery,
[Inaudible], democracy, scorn. Could anyone help me verse
this impending scorn? Walt believed so. Several years before
the election of 1860 [Inaudible]
listen to this, he imagined that such a person
so needed would be [Inaudible]. Walt wrote that his new hope
for a leader would become “healthy body, beard
faced [Inaudible].” He would arise out of the real
west and the long [Inaudible]. Walt imagined that this new
president would be both shrewd and heroic. Never heard [Inaudible]. Now [Inaudible] industrialists
face [Inaudible] plantation slave owners. The ship was floundering
near the captain and the captain did soon appear,
his name Abraham Lincoln. So the book said something
contrast, not contrast but as we speak the fact that Whitman was already
visiting the hospitals and soon would – he
never met Lincoln, but he did know [Inaudible]. From his first sighting
of Abraham Lincoln, the man in the White
House was never far from Whitman’s thoughts. Lincoln’s particularly my man. By the same token, I am
Lincoln’s man he says. We are afloat in
the same stream. We are rooted in
the same ground. What do the poet
to the president? Walt loved the fact that
Lincoln like Walt himself came from the common people. Those lacking formal education
and social status and wealth. It confirmed Walt’s belief – Walt’s belief the
average person’s potential for greatness. But there was more. Both men had an almost
mystical faith in the union and democracy. Walt’s poetry rose in part
from his vision of America and Lincoln’s political
thought rested on the United States
Constitution and the Declaration
of Independence. And I’m jumping here, so
there’s a lot of connections and I think exist [Inaudible]. Okay. Okay. America brought to
hospital in her fair youth, that’s a quote from Walt again. [Inaudible] the war
now has started and [Inaudible] 700,000 people and soldiers died
from the Civil War. And the hospital so called,
will be mentioned [Inaudible]. Nothing like you might get today
if you have a bit of sore throat and you’re down to some –
we’re talking about this size with [Inaudible] all over. [Inaudible] dirtier,
messier and so on. And they were all over –
scattered all over the city of Washington particularly. I’m not sure if the
south had the same thing. I don’t know what city
it would bet set in. But anyway this is
America brought to a hospital in a [Inaudible] when Whitman [Inaudible]
because he started to visit the hospitals. Walt began to learn more about the hospitals scattered
throughout Washington, converted warehouses and government
buildings newly constructed [Inaudible] houses wherever
beds could be placed. To him the hospitals almost came
to stand for the war itself. The expression of America and
personality is not to be looked for in the great campaign in
the battle of lights he said. He looked for in
hospitals among the wounded. That’s a quote from Walt. So he began to visit hospitals. He had a little job in
the morning, Walt Whitman, a little government job. In the afternoon he was free. When he left his government
job in the morning he’d stop by some hospitals
and go at night and visit hospitals okay, in DC. What I’d give of myself. In this long poem song of myself
Walt had proclaimed I am the man, I suffered, I was there. Now his words would
be put to the test. The sick, the wounded, the
disfigured, the despairing and the dying called out to him. And he answered. A large [Inaudible] strangers
would sometimes say he resembled a retired sea captain. Walt [Inaudible] friendly
magnetic personality but sometimes do as
much as [Inaudible] to heal a wounded man. The smallest things
mattered, how he spoke, his handshake, his smile. How he was dressed. Often he wore a necktie; sometimes even put a
flower in his button hole. You can imagine he wrote
home to his mother, I’ve got quite a swell. Walt was in pain. He took on any role
he thought would help. Friend, nurse, assistant
nurse, secretary, delivery man, brother, father or even mother. His days now – skip
that paragraph. Often Walt would make
afternoon hospital stops. Then he’d turn to his
small bare room for dinner. He would eat a meager meal. His dinner plate was simply
a piece of brown paper that he crumpled and
tossed in the fire after the meal was over. Before heading out again in a
hospitals, he would check one of his hand made notebooks,
one of the notebooks he’d get. Not much of a notebook, just folded paper pinned
together sometimes stained with blood, in which he
had listed the wounded soldier’s requests. He then would rifle through
his supplies, stuffing gifts into a large knapsack. Such simple needs. Bed 23, that’s the way he
kind of remembered what where. A piece of hounds tooth candy. Bed 30, paper and pencil. Bed 71 an orange. Bed 77, a handful of change. Bed 98, a Bible. Taking his small store of
money, he had very little and spent nearly all of it
on presents for the soldiers. He might stop at a market
for food, a stationary shop for envelops or a
bakery for biscuits, cookies and other sweets. Then he would walk
to the hospitals. I sort of left Lincoln out
of here because we talk about him earlier in the book. Walt would see him occasionally
and he was inspired by the fact that he felt Lincoln was
suffering and fighting this war, with a lot of opposition coming
from both north and south. And so he knew that Lincoln
would pass on Friday nights and Lincoln would go out to a
little place to stop and sleep at the overnight [Inaudible]
away from the White House. And Walt would sort of
time his [Inaudible]. Abe would be coming in
a carriage of course. And Walt [Inaudible]
hospital in the afternoon and he often would
walk to a corner where he knew the President’s
carriage would pass by. Did Lincoln ever take
note of this stranger who stood there watching? Once, standing and waiting
Walt heard the sounds of churning wheels
and horse’s hooves. The carriage carrying Abraham
Lincoln slowly came into view, followed by a company of Calvary
sabers drawn and held high. Walt, his knapsack slung over
his shoulder leaned forward. The carriage pattered past. The president looked down
at Walt, who is this? Walt Whitman gazed back at
the president, their eyes met. Abraham Lincoln seemed to nod. Walt nodded in return. Moving on the carriage
rounded a corner as Walt watched it disappear. Simply to see this
president, to catch a glimpse of his face increasingly etched
the suffering so awful ugly, “So awful ugly becomes
beautiful.” Yet with a [Inaudible] smile
on occasion was uplifting, just to watch as the stiff
figure sitting motionless and the shadow – of the shadow the carriage
passed by gave Walt new energy. He felt Lincoln was
giving his all and beyond. How could Walt do less? Walt [Inaudible] still
Walt in the hospital and [Inaudible] going to read
let’s see a couple paragraphs from this page. My wife is my critic, she’s over
there like you’re going to fast, you’re going to slow,
you’re saying too much, you’re saying too little. Anyway. All right, so Walt tried
to speak to each soldier in the war as he visited. Attempting to give at least a
word or a trifle to everyone. He read to the men, stories,
poems and newspaper articles. He played games of cards
with them or 20 questions. He helped them write
letters home. Once he even bought – brought
ice cream, a treat many of the wounded soldiers
had never tasted. When called upon
he cleansed wounds and witnessed many amputations, nearly three out of four
operations during the Civil War were amputations. And I should add once you were
amputated you were pretty much on the death list. Didn’t have much
cleanliness there. You chop an arm off, it
could be curtains, okay? It always – it felt days – Walt
kept his [Inaudible] jotting down a few lines whenever
he had a free moment. And one [Inaudible] he
looked and wrote, the hurt and wounded I pacify
them soothing hand. I sit by the restless
all the dark night. Even President Lincoln
also came to the hospital, but nowhere near
as often as Walt. Okay, I’m going to – this
is a very touchy paragraph or two to me. Do dear comrade, your
mission is fulfilled. That’s a quote from Walt. Soldiers came and soldiers went, and many never left
alive at all. The worst moment came too
often, the death watch. Walt Whitman the poet had
earlier written the smallest sprout shows there’s
really no death. Now Walt the nurse
would sit quietly with many young soldiers
as they died. Sometimes he brushed a boy’s
forehead with a cool cloth or held a dying soldiers hand. When the end came there was
[Inaudible] propping pillows he removed the [Inaudible] the
arms were softly placed by the side and the broad white
sheets thrown over everything. But that wasn’t the
end [Inaudible]. And [Inaudible] name and address
and prepared to write a letter to the soldiers family. As he wrote to one [Inaudible]
parent, your son was one of the thousands of our unknown
American young men in the ranks, about whom there is no
record or [Inaudible], but I find in them
the real precious and [Inaudible] of this land. I love that. He identified [Inaudible], I’m only a friend visiting
the wounded, sick soldiers. I’m jumping along
here [Inaudible]. Walt actually began to get sick. He was both tired and
probably hospitals were not – but he continued to go okay and
continued to watch [Inaudible]. And the last time he
saw Lincoln alive was when he attended Lincoln’s
second inauguration in 1864. It was ’65 I guess, early ’65. Almost the last time Walt
Whitman would see Abraham Lincoln alive. Okay. Again this is
Walt’s [Inaudible]. It was a date people at
the time would remember for the rest of their lives. They would remember where they
were too when they got the news. April 14, 1865 President
Lincoln shot. April 15, 1865 President
Lincoln dead. Walt sat in the kitchen of his mother’s home twirling
[Inaudible] the furnished apartment in Brooklyn. He had come home
for a short visit. Newspapers were scattered on
the table in front of him. Neither Walt, nor his mother
had eaten, nor would they eat for the rest of the day. They each drank half a cup
of coffee that was all. The president was dead. Then there’s several pages
which I’m not going to read that sort of summarize
the death of Lincoln and the assassination in
Ford’s Theater in town here and the death which I will pass by in a moment but
is covered here. And I’m jumping ahead here
because I want to end this on Walt’s poem to Lincoln, which
you know is [Inaudible] some of the – Oh Captain, my Captain. The bearded man sits
at his writing table. A notebook lies open before him. In the lamplight his
memories flicker and fade. The four years of war, the
battles, the hospitals, the deaths of so many soldiers
[Inaudible] the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. And what of the pain and
suffering of the mother’s, father’s, wives, sisters,
brother’s, friends, the suffering of
an entire nation. His mind returns
to the [Inaudible]. He seems to feel the rhythm
of far off training wheels, the slow train carrying
Abraham Lincoln’s body across the north
[Inaudible] to be buried. Walt knows that along that route
many thousands come out to stand and watch the train go past. Some saluting, some weeping. Do they understand the president
[Inaudible] during those horrible years? Somehow they do. That is why they come
out to wait and watch, sun or rain, day or night. But perhaps they cannot put into words what they
feel, can Walt Whitman? The president, the man who
guided the nation to the agony of a long war is
finally at rest. The captain has returned home
from his thoughtful voyage. Yes, the captain. Slowly a few words
tumble onto the paper. A poem begins to take shape. Works re scratched out. New words take their place,
Walt Whitman the poet stands up, walks to the window
stares into the darkness. He deals with poem
growing in and out. He sits, takes up his
pen and begins to write. Oh Captain, my captain
our fearful trip is done. The ship has weathered
every rack; the prize we sought is one. That’s the end of the book. But there’s a long [Inaudible]
both Walt and Lincoln are sort of [Inaudible] biographs
if that’s the right word. There’s two poems of Walt’s
[Inaudible] started to read, the Oh Captain my Captain, which
many of you know that poem. It’s probably the only poem that
I know of that Walt ever wrote in rhyme, at least as an adult. And I’ve always – we read that
poem when I was in eighth grade. And graduated – teachers
[Inaudible] recite it in class, so we read that poem. And everybody thought it
was kind of an awkward, Walt always had the
snootiness as you know. [Inaudible] with
unrhyming poems. But reading it again – even worth your while
to read it again. As a rhymed poem I think
it works pretty well. [Inaudible] when I
read it [Inaudible] that poem [Inaudible], but actually it’s
not Walt [Inaudible]. Okay? And that’s kind of it. I think I skipped over
a number of things. I didn’t do one that
I wanted to do which showed the wonderful
[Inaudible] and the beautiful – this man is somebody you
should treasure as an artist. I’m [Inaudible] I am an artist
and I happen to know good art. And Sterling is –
the illustrations in this book are
probably in my opinion, [Inaudible] are just some of
the best I’ve ever seen both in their imaginative tone, the reality of the feeling and then [Inaudible]
imaginations at times. So please this book and always – I’ve loved Whitman since I began
to try to write poetry long ago, but anybody in America that
tries to write poetry has to [Inaudible] doesn’t
mean you have to like him. People do not – there’s
always a discussion. He stands [Inaudible] force
that you have to sort of — [Inaudible] I’m talking
too much. Can I stop?>>Sterling Hundley: I just
– I want to say thank you and your words are more
meaningful than I can express in front of a large
group like this. But I have a question
to ask you all, how many of you are
here for the first time? You’re all regulars. I’m here for the first time. My family is here
for the first time.>>In this room or just ->>Sterling Hundley: Just
the Library of Congress. It’s a new experience for me. And just I like to research
things before I jump in. So 16 million books
are housed here. Over 120 million
artifacts, manuscripts. These are collections of ideas
and if you think about it, you know if you exclude
other languages and you just simply look
at English, we’re talking about 26 letters, nine
numbers that are put together in a sequence in
a way that tried to express the range
of human experience. That’s really remarkable
so these words are – these letters are put
together in words. These words become sentences. These sentences become stories. And we express ideas, emotions
that cut across time and space. That’s a pretty remarkable thing
that we as human beings can do. So I’m grateful first of all for
the opportunity of these words in this book that Bob wrote. I was given the manuscript
and that was an opportunity from the publisher Abrams. As Bob said we hadn’t
met until this morning. And we shared parfait. And so I’m grateful for this
relationship that’s building. I’m grateful for the
Library of Congress, not just the opportunity
but the space. Before this was a building, before this was anything
else this was an idea. And it was an idea that
was brought to life for – through words and
pictures and drawings. And a lot of great
minds coming together. And I just want to point
that out that everything that is here started
off simply as an idea. And as I was going through Bob’s
story about Lincoln and Whitman, you know you’ll be hard pressed
to find me without this in hand. This is my journal. I call it journal because it’s
somewhere between a sketch book and a life story
that I’m writing. And with that you’ll see
that I’ve got a pencil. This isn’t any different really,
it’s a nice pencil I admit. But it’s not that different
than what Walt Whitman used. Graphite and wood, but
the act of drawing, the act of writing is a way
for us to get things that are up here and things that are
inside here out onto a page. That in itself is not
necessarily an act of courage. I think it’s an act of therapy
where we process things. But think about what
Walt Whitman was able to do with his words. To go to people who were in
these harrowing situations where they’re on
their last breath. And he could share words
and thoughts with them that would improve
their spirits. He could capture their
ideas, their names. And let them know that their
legacy was going to live on even beyond that moment. That’s really a remarkable thing
that we get to do as authors and illustrators and writers. And I would encourage you
if you don’t have a journal. If you don’t have the means of
just documenting your thought and process in the
world it will be some of the best therapy you
would ever go through. And who knows it may turn
into a story that lives on the shelves here in the
Library of Congress one day. One thing that I wanted to bring
that we could share in person that I don’t think
is often expressed through books is it’s a
labor, it’s a process. It’s not like Bob
took these words and just threw them together
and voila we have a story. He labored for months if not
years probably trying to figure out ways to tell the
stories of these two men and how they came together
at this point in time. I was given a year to work on
the – on the pictures for this and I dove into the research. I worked on sketches. Those went back to the art
director, they came back. I worked through new
ideas and new iterations. I explored thoughts
about armed freedom. If you haven’t looked out of the
Capitol Building you’ll see a giant – well it looks tiny. There’s a statute on the top of the Capitol that’s
armed freedom. There’s an entire history
there that I explored, that’s genuinely exciting to me. I want to make this a little
bit more intimate if we can. I want you all to
experience the hot lights. And the cameras. I’m going to show a few
things on the screen up here. But I brought a bunch of the
originals that I’d love for you to put your hands on and to
look through and to hand around. I’ve got the sketch books
that show the process and the thinking
that go behind that – I’ve got a few other
sketch books as well. If that doesn’t break
form too much for us here. Let me share a few things
real quick before I open up the floor to you all. I’m also grateful that these
three are here, my wife Shelly, my son Elias and my
daughter Madison. Also my best friend Patrick,
I haven’t seen in years. So – of course ->>Robert Burleigh: I just
wanted to say one thing. [ Inaudible ]>>Robert Burleigh: I wanted
to make mention of the fact that my wife Jenni Rogers over
here was very, very instrumental in getting this book together. Especially when they added
Lincoln to the story of Whitman and I said, “Oh that’s
too much for me.” And she said, “No it’s not. You’re going to call up and say
“I’ll take it,” which I did do. But Jenni was a very significant
help for me to get this. Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Sterling Hundly: And this
is my illustration over here. Every time I get into a project
I – I disappear and you know try to be the best husband, dad
I can be, but it’s not – I don’t have much to
offer during those times. So – so this is where it begins. And this is the things that I think I can
share with you today. I think it’s really
difficult for a child or someone who is not creative. We hear a song or we read
a book or we see pictures. And we see the absolute best
efforts of that creative, that author to hide all
of our mistakes, right? So we don’t show the process. We show the best result of all
of our choices and decisions. These are all the
mistakes, right? So these are all in here. They’re here for
you to look through and this was the
very open spread. I contain multitudes
and you can see how that abstract concept would
terrify children probably. There are a number of
things in this book that can terrify children
and I became a creative thing to figure out how to solve
that and relay that out. So I was going to
show a few things here but I sent the wrong link. You all don’t want
to understand how to start a free-lance
illustration career. So we’ll pass on that. But we’ve got other things. So come up here, put your
hands on these things. Take a look at them. From that stage of
just the initial dive into the manuscripts and
I’m given a raw manuscript at that point. We worked through the sketches and this probably
won’t show really well. This is the sketch and I think that this one was probably
the biggest turning point for me in the book. Where I took the text
and I started to move into the metaphor of
Abraham Lincoln as more than just the man who suffered
terribly but as the myth that we understand him now. So I got to play with scale
and introduce a bit of magic to the story telling and that
got me excited, thank you. Please come up and look
through these things. So yeah, dive into the research, getting involved
with the thinking. That’s all drawing is for me. It’s just thinking out loud and
once you move beyond that point of just drawing for yourself
or writing for yourself and you choose to share it. I think that that’s
genuinely an act of courage. Because you are taking
these things that are highly emotional,
highly charged, high personal and you choose to share them
with other people with the hope that someone else will
relate to what you’re saying. That’s an incredible
thing we get to do. So anyway that’s pretty
much all I wanted to say. I want the pictures to speak
for themselves, but come up here and look at these things. Of course this is Walt Whitman
and there’s other people who are cast in here, but
you might not recognize because you haven’t met her, but
will you stand up real quick? That’s my sweet girl Madison
there, so this is who I used for reference down on the
bottom corner and it’s just one of those things – I want to
give her some bragging rights as she goes to school. If you can advance one – It is fun to kind of get to work
these things in and you know, they’re also cheap models. Truth be told. Advance there. And this is – this is
one – it’s probably one of my favorite spreads
from the book and it just had the right
tone and mood but I’m not sure if anyone has seen it, but I got to plant a few Easter
Eggs in here. So I got to hide their names and my wife’s name Shelly is
also hidden within this too. So just little things
like that that we – we do to take these stories
and make ourselves excited about them, to make ourselves
passionate about them and share them out
with other folks. And there’s nothing
hidden or secret in this, but one of the things
that I really tried to do in this story is I tried
to – I got on everything from Google Maps and
tried to explore the – tried to triangulate
the information that Bob put together about
which window was Lincoln’s, which room he would
have been writing in. It turns out the White
House this one or this one, he actually may have
been writing in either one burning
the midnight oil. And this of course is Whitman
walking down the street, and I was trying to make
sure I got the muddy streets at that time period right and other information,
you can advance. I mentioned process
for those of you who haven’t seen the sketches. This is what the drawings looked like before I messed
them up with paint. So I wish I could have just
left them all as drawings and my dad told me to do that,
and you know of course I had to take them to some
level of finish. But Walt Whitman is hidden up
here in the top left corner. It’s a bit of a – you
know where’s Waldo and maybe Ralph Waldo Emerson
would have been a better choice. But advance please. And the rest are just – I was
going to show these as a means of telling the story
between the lines. One of the things that I got
from NC Wyeth that he would talk about is he never wanted to
illustrate literally the story, he wanted to illustrate
the scenes that happen between the lines. So if you’ve seen the
original Treasure Island by Robert Lewis Stevenson
there’s a scene where Gem is at the Admiral Benbo
and he’s leaving home. We know that he has
to leave home to go on this huge adventure and
his mother is in tears. She’s breaking down
all the background, well that scene is
never written about. But it must have happened, so
a lot of the story and a lot of the things I was trying to
interject was to add texture and substance to what Bob wrote
from the historical record of his interpretation of that
and just bring things to this that allowed both of us to
write part of the script. So he is writing with words,
I’m writing with pictures.>>Robert Burleigh: I
do a little bit myself. For example in that part
where Walt looks at Lincoln in the coach as he drives by. I did watch from the corner but
I brought him in a little closer to sort of make it seem like
there was a real connection, as opposed [Inaudible]
across the lot. That kind of – I made
the scene in the story that as close as we are. It was probably more like you
and somebody that distance between because [Inaudible] I
think that’s kind of parallel to what you’re talking about.>>Sterling Hundley: It was
really interesting as I got into the research I found some
excerpts that you had used as points of reference. I found some original
sources, and what’s incredible with what Bob did is there’s
a huge amount of creativity that goes into figuring
out how to tell the story, the perspective, the
audience in mind, trying to stitch
these things together. So there’s – even though we’re
dealing with you know facts, we’re dealing with
history there’s a huge part of this narrative that
is immensely creative in putting these
things together. So I started seeing the web
that you had to tie together, so this scene was
Whitman – I just assumed that these terrible
things that he was seeing and experiencing had to move
beyond you know him just being there to show joy and
to take care of them. This was immensely
traumatic for him as well, so I try to stow him
away into the side room and the boots are there
as indicators of soldiers who passed away, they
can’t wear boots anymore. They’re not there to wear them. So there’s little things
that became symbols through the story telling
that I really enjoyed. But all I want to say in
closing, on my part is that I’m grateful to
have this opportunity. I’m grateful to have a means by
which I process and share things and I think that as you
walk around these halls here at the Library of Congress,
just remember that 26 letters, nine numbers compile a
huge amount of the record of what we understand
is recorded thought within Western Civilization. And I think that it’s an
amazing thing to understand that from those very few
limitations original thought has been given life, has been born
and has affected all of us in significant ways that
we [Inaudible] understand. [ Applause ]

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