‘President’ visits St. C. Middle School

T-L Photo/RICK THORP ABRAHAM LINCOLN, portrayed by John Cooper, speaks to Sarah Steele’s first-period American history class recently at St. Clairsville Middle School.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Students in Sarah Steele’s American history classes at St. Clairsville Middle School recently got a lesson on the Civil War from one of the saga’s most enduring figures — Abraham Lincoln.

The United States’ 16th president, portrayed by John Cooper, spent a day in Belmont County this week, providing students a real-life account of what it was like being leader of the Union during the war between the states. The commander-in-chief’s visit was made possible American Legion Post 159.

”They are generous enough to donate the fees to have him come and speak to us,” Steele said. ”We really appreciate their help and their donation.”

Steele said her classes recently finished studying the Civil War era, so the president’s visit was timely.

”He tries to bring (that era) to life for our students and and give them firsthand accounts of the Civil War,” Steele said.

Lincoln, clad in his familiar black suit, tie and stovepipe hat, had students’ attention immediately as he entered the classroom. Upon taking command of the class with his authoritative demeanor, the president quizzed the students, asking a series of multiple-choice questions. The topics were wide-ranging, but all had to do with events that took place during his presidency between 1861 and 1865.

After asking all of the questions, Lincoln went through them again, asking members of the class about their answers. That sparked discussion about different events. Students were able to see those events from Lincoln’s perspective, taking a step inside the the mind of the lawyer from Springfield, Ill., and considering why he made many of the major decisions he made.

Lincoln told students his thoughts on topics changed many times based on the information he was presented from his advisers. That led the president to challenge the students to be steeped in information and always be surrounded with good people.

”Get good people around you,” Lincoln said. ”I always made good appointments to my cabinet.”

This wasn’t Lincoln’s first visit to Eastern Ohio in recent memory. The presidential re-enactor has also been to the area for the Belmont County Fair.