The 21st Show

Live From The Old State Capitol In Springfield


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The 21st was live from the Old State Capitol, which was home to our state government during the Civil War and to Abraham Lincoln’s famous “A House Divided” speech. Plus, in today's state politics, the former legislative inspector general says that the process for holding lawmakers accountable is broken. We’ll talk about why. And in 1994 five living presidents gathered for Richard Nixon’s funeral. A Springfield production of the play “Five Presidents" imagines what that meeting was like.

If you’re a regular listener to our show, you know that every year we take a trip to the current state capitol for the governor’s budget address. We’ve gotten pretty familiar with that building by now, but this is our first time in the old state capitol, which was the seat of Illinois government from 1840 to 1876.

A lot has happened here. In fact, we’re in the very room where a lawyer and former Congressman named Abraham Lincoln was running for US Senate, and delivered his famous speech where he said “A House Divided Against Itself Itself Cannot Stand.”

And just outside this building nearly 150 years later, a young senator named Barack Obama launched his campaign for president.

We wanted to learn a bit more about this building and its place in our state’s history. And for that Troy Gilmore joined us. He’s assistant site superintendent for Springfield’s State Historic Sites, which includes the Old State Capitol.


The current state capitol is barely a mile from where the old one, and state politics are a little different now from what they were in the 19th century.

We do like to start the week on the 21st with a look at state politics. Illinois Public Radio statehouse reporter Brian Mackey joined us. 


We know that Springfield is home to lots of Illinois history. We’ve spent some time talking about the old state capitol and some of what’s going on in state politics today.

Well, where there’s government, there's also journalists to hold people accountable. 

Trif Alatzas is the publisher and editor-in-chief of the Baltimore Sun. Patty Culhane is a correspondent for Al Jazeera, covering the state and defense departments. And Natasha Korecki is a national political correspondent for Politico.

They have had long and varied careers but they all have one thing in common: they got their start here in Illinois, through the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois-Springfield. And they’re in town because tonight, they’ll be inducted into that program’s hall of fame.


25 years ago, dignitaries from all over the world gathered in California to mourn the death of President Richard Nixon.

Also in attendance were five living US presidents: Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush senior, and the sitting president, Bill Clinton. It was the first time that that many presidents had attended the funeral of another president.

The play “Five Presidents” imagines what it would have been like for these five people to meet. It’s the brainchild of Rick Cleveland, who wrote on some of America’s most well-known political dramas, like The West Wing and House of Cards.

Right now, there’s a Springfield production of this play that you can catch. It ran last week and will continue this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Phil Funkenbusch directs the Springfield production and he’s joined us at the Old State Capitol. 

Two of the actors also spoke with us. Ed MacMurdo plays President BIll Clinton. And Chuck McCue plays President Ronald Reagan. 

Story source: WILL