Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lincoln Bicentennial day

2009 is definitely the year of anniversaries. What you're about to read is what you may think to be showing the sensitive side of me (again). It was two centuries ago that one of the greatest people in history was born. 'Honest Abe' Lincoln was born in a log cabin in Kentucky on this day in 1809. What his parents didn't know is that this infant would go on to be one of the country's most respected presidents of all time. When I went to Mount Rushmore some summers back, our tour guide told a witty story about how Abe wasn't 'always honest' as he was telling a story about him lying to his wife.

A lot of bloggers/columnists recently wrote that many people should take this anniversary and birthday very seriously, and I do agree with them. I'm not really sure how to back that up, but I'll go ahead and simply put it this way: Without Lincoln, there would be no America. I remember once reading in John Ratzenberger's book 'We've Got It Made In America' that he felt insulted that such places like mattress stores have used this occasion to offer discount deals. A lot of historians have noted that back in 1909, several organizations and groups proudly commemorated his birthday. I'm not really sure what to say for this year. The US Mint will distribute two special double-sided pennies with different angles/portraits of Lincoln.

But I'll get back to his legacy. I took a Civil War/Reconstruction class a couple summers ago and my professor asked the class, "Why was Abraham Lincoln looked up to as a leader, and what did the others see in him? And why is he one of the most-respected presidents of all time?". He knew the answer, but he wanted to get our opinions of course.
My answer was this: "I think it's because everyone loves a great success story. Abraham Lincoln was self-made and self-taught. He never attended school, but instead educated himself to the fullest all through his teen years. He always had a hunger for knowledge, as he walked several miles to borrow books. By his twenties he was smart enough to attend law school. He also served as an inspiration to those who fail. Several strings of failures occurred when he ran for public offices. So he was one of those who inspired others to never give up. By the time this country was falling apart, he was able to courageously take the Oval Office. His predecessor, James Buchanan, even said as he handed him the White House, "If you want to become President of the United States at a time like this, then you are indeed one happy man...". He then led the North during the Civil War, carefully choosing his leaders and delivering his speeches to end slavery. And lastly, he died for his country." Of course, there lays the controversy about his ways/thoughts with civil rights (when ending slavery), but I hope those note that this was only the beginning. I could go on more about his legacy, but I hope you all get the idea.

Today, Lincoln's influence holds around the world as well. The current president of South Korea has recently wrote about his dream in uniting the 'Koreas' and his inspiration was Abe Lincoln. I remember when I was in the second grade we were all asked to write a 'Since You've Been Gone...' letter to Lincoln. Mine is kind of embarrassing to read, as we were all kids writing it ('We now have Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!...'). But if I were to write one today, I'd say I'm proud to have him as part of my state history and so much has happened in America since 1865. Only two presidents have been impeached. We've become more of a world power. We have become more dominant in foreign affairs, as well as fighting two world wars. And yes, the states are still together, having an even number of 50 states.

So to anyone who is reading this, I encourage everyone to take the time to think about how much impact Abraham Lincoln has had on this country.

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