210 years ago today, in a one room log cabin near Hodgenville, Kentucky, one of the greatest Americans to ever live, Abraham Lincoln was born.
Over a century and a half after his death, President Lincoln is still all around us. He has more things named after him in America than anyone but George Washington. We see his face in every penny and five dollar bill. It is important to reflect upon why this man is so revered and respected, and ponder what he can still teach us today.
Perseverance: President Lincoln lost his mother at age nine. His sister Sarah, who was 11 years old at the time essentially become his mother, but Sarah died during childbirth at 19. So did her son the next day. Lincoln’s first love, Ann Rutledge died when he was 22. Lincoln also had two son’s die, one during his presidency. He had two failed businesses and lost eight elections, but he kept going.
Self drive– President Lincoln’s father was illiterate, and he saw no value in his son having an education. Until Lincoln was 21, his father sent him to labor for others, keeping the wages for himself. President Lincoln, considered one of the greatest leaders in world history only had a small part of a grade school education. He committed himself to self education, because he was acutely aware that the key to his future was in his education, even if he had to do it himself. He became a lawyer only after reading enough law books that he could pass the bar exam.
Integrity: The nickname “Honest Abe” speaks for itself. Even those who oppposed Lincoln rarely questioned his integrity. Wouldn’t it be great if one of the candidates in the election of 2020 was commonly referred to as “honest ____________.”?
Ability to do the right thing instead of the popular thing: Most Americans didn’t want to fight the civil war. They didn’t really care if the south left the union, or if southerner owned slaves. Lincoln knew that the war had to be fought, the union be preserved, and ultimately the slaves to be freed. During his time, President Lincoln was one of our most unpopular Presidents ever. Thank goodness he had the mental toughness to carry on. Our country, and perhaps democracy itself would not exist today if he hadn’t.
Ability to grow:. Lincoln was not an abolitionist for most of his life. Even while running for President, he repeatedly said he had no intention of ending slavery in the south. He learned, he evolved, he changed his mind. Wouldn’t it be great if more people could say, “you know on second thought…………..”
Willingness to be challenged: Abraham Lincoln filled his cabinet and other important positions with people who were intensely opposed to him and each other. He wanted them to criticize him and his policies. He encouraged lengthy debate and discussion. The people around him were encouraged to speak freely without fear. He believed that he got stronger when challenged. That takes a brand of confidence and courage that we can only hope to find in our leaders of the future.
We name things after people not to reward them, but to teach and remind the living of the lessons of our greatest. That bearded guy looking back at you from the five dollar bill still has a lot to teach those willing to listen.
P.S.: Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born on the very same day.
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