October 15th, 2012
06:25 PM GMT
Iowa (CNN) – The face was oh so familiar. The words, I recognized at once. The way they were delivered amplified their significance. This truly was Abraham Lincoln; or in this case, Lance Mack, a Lincoln impersonator addressing a Civil War re-enactment in Bloomfield, Iowa. How appropriate that Honest Abe, arguably America’s greatest president, should be on hand to offer his 19th century wisdom to a 21st century problem.
Mack has an uncanny resemblance to his alter ego. It is more than just the beard. His face, long and languid; the mournful eyes; his stature, reaching way over six foot. All together, along with the top hat and long grey coat, and there, right there, was Abraham Lincoln. His audience, a group of school children, was spellbound.
This startling likeness has helped Mack forge something approaching a career. It was his son that first suggested he try it out, and now the two or three events he attends a month may soon earn enough to make it a full time job.
He even plans to have his ashes scattered by Lincoln's Oak Ridge grave: "I told my son, do it on a wet Thursday when there's no one around. They're not going to make you pick me up with tweezers."
He makes a charismatic commander in chief, but playing the role is about more than simple looks: “This is about reminding Americans living in the 21st Century of the hardships these people faced,” he says, “and the reasons they fought.” Never has that been truer than in 2012, as America readies itself to vote for another president.
Mack is under no illusion that Lincoln is as relevant today as he was after the Civil War, but believes much can be learned from what he said then. As Romney and Obama beat each other up, so Mack can see a parallel need for a healing influence.
Mack is "dismayed" at the "anger expressed on both sides of the aisle." He is also troubled by the voters still sitting on the fence: “The 7% or 8% that both candidates are struggling to reach - I find it difficult to comprehend why people can remain undecided this far into an election campaign that has lasted so many months already.”
In the end, Mack believes Lincoln had exactly the right words to rouse and sooth today’s electorate: “I’d use the second inaugural - delivered March 4th 1865, barely a month before the end of the war. I was looking ahead to an America that needed to be reunited, that had been ripped asunder… and the advice I gave that day is as relevant now.”
The words are perfect: Charity for all; malice towards none; binding up the nation’s wounds; seeking a just and lasting peace. All these are worthy aims. Now America just has to find someone to say them. And mean them.
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