Two score and seven years ago is about when the seeds of an Abe Lincoln obsession were sown in the heart and soul of schoolboy Mickey Straub, whose Pennsylvania roots fed his interest in Lincoln’s historic visit to Gettysburg.
That Lincoln love will be in full bloom Tuesday when Straub launches a pilgrimage to “promote Lincoln’s principles and patriotism” by reading Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address from the steps of all 50 state capitols in 50 days. Naturally, he will log his Lincoln miles in an old Lincoln Town Car he bought for the occasion.
“I never really considered myself over the top with Lincoln,” Straub, 55, says during a tour of his office packed with Honest Abe photos, Abe posters, Abe books and even a brick from the house that served as Lincoln’s address when the president delivered his Gettysburg Address. “But I’ve got a lot of Lincoln stuff.”
A lifetime in the making, the idea of 50-state trip hit Straub a decade ago. But his daughter, Alysa, was little and he was very busy with his business in Oak Brook. Two years ago, he bought the website 50capitolsin50days.com. He also bought ReclaimingLincoln.com.
Now, with his daughter a 17-year-old senior at Nazarene Academy in LaGrange Park, his business running smoothly in its new office in Burr Ridge, his wife, Charmaine, lending her blessing, and the country sorely in need of a Lincoln reminder, Straub says he just needed a sign.
That wasn’t difficult, as the man consumed with thoughts of patriotism and God sees signs everywhere he wants — from the fact that his father was born on the anniversary of the day the Declaration of Independence was signed to his speculation that the 1997 Lincoln (with a “God Bless America” Alabama license plate) he bought for $4,500 must have been built in 1996, making it 16 years old, which clearly ties in with Lincoln being our 16th president.
The “deciding factor,” Straub says, came during his visit to the Catholic Shoppe in Westmont. Straub says he was talking with the clerk about whether he should make the trip on faith, when the verse of “Well done, good and faithful servant” from the Bible’s book of Matthew became a part of the conversation. Cementing the deal, Straub says, was the fact that the clerk’s name was Matthew.
Logistics of lodging, driving routes and donations to pay for it are tricky. After a small suburban ceremony Saturday to send him on his way, Straub officially starts his odyssey from Gettysburg on Tuesday. He plans to read the Gettysburg Address in the Pennsylvania capital of Harrisburg and then drive to Albany, N.Y., on Day One.
Some days he’ll hit as many as three capitals; other times he’ll spend an entire day driving or fly home for a wedding or other special occasion. He’s flying to Hawaii and Alaska. Although he plans to stay with siblings and friends during his trip, he figures the expedition might cost as much as $50,000 and cover as many as 13,000 miles. He promises to donate any excess donations he receives to veterans’ organizations.
The founder and president of a performance measurement and management company called Sales Activity Management, Straub’s motto is “Focus, Plan, Execute, Maintain.” He’s clearly focused and he’s planned for his trip, but he’s not worked out all the details.
“Entrepreneurs don’t need a clear path. They just need a clear goal,” Straub quips, cocking his head as he thinks about what he’s said. “I’ve never said that before, but that’s a good one.”
Straub also comes up with a good description for himself.
“I’m a cautious dreamer,” he says. “I have one foot on the gas and one on the brake at all times.”
A hefty contributor to the Gettysburg Museum, veteran sites and other historical causes, Straub says the expense and effort involved in his 50-state journey will be worth it if he can get the nation to focus on the message Lincoln put forth in the Gettysburg Address. His Lincoln car, which has more than 82,000 miles on it but does have new tires and brakes, will sport a magnet featuring Lincoln and the words God, Liberty, Unity and Equality, which Straub sees as the GLUE holding our nation together. He likes acronyms.
“I’m a CAR guy — Christian, American, Republican, in that order,” says Straub, an active member of Saint Isaac Jogues Catholic Church in Hinsdale. Straub, who sees a strong connection between Lincoln and God, says he’ll also search for signs of God at each state capitol.
Straub’s office boasts a photo of him with outspoken and controversial conservative Glenn Beck as well as plaques of Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and Pope John Paul II. Straub says he grew up as a “Kennedy Democrat” and still admires John F. Kennedy’s admonishment “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
As founder of the grass-roots organization “Proud To Be Republican,” Straub notes that he intentionally did not say proud to be “A” Republican. He says his group sets out “to promote Republican principles through principled Republicans,” including fiscal responsibility.
Straub admits to being irked when Barack Obama kicked off his campaign in Springfield with obvious attempts to compare the Democratic candidate with the Republican Lincoln, and he’s often critical of our president.
However, Straub says his trip should not be misconstrued as a campaign stunt on behalf of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, but as a serious reminder to both parties that Lincoln’s messages about “unfinished work” and a “great task” still ring true.
“It’s an amazing document. It’s amazing how timeless it is,” Straub says of Lincoln’s two-minute speech. “The Gettysburg Address is our future.”
Straub once worked as a civilian special agent conducting background checks and such for the Department of Defense in Washington, D.C., but he says he regrets never having served his nation in the military. This trip is a way to serve, he says.
“I consider this my duty,” Straub says. “I don’t want this trip to be about me. I want it to be about the Gettysburg Address.”
He also says he wants Lincoln’s message to be heard above the din of political battles and to last far beyond the coming presidential election.
“If there’s one thing about this trip,” Straub says, “it’s about looking beyond November.”
Unfortunately for the always-planning Straub, somebody, he notes, already has purchased the beyondnovember website domain name.