It’s not a surprise that we continue to revere Abraham Lincoln over two centuries after his birth. Our 16th president personified many of the qualities that we have come to associate with what is best about America. One of Abraham Lincoln’s greatest accomplishments, and it came right before his death, was orchestrating the 13th amendment to abolish slavery. Abraham Lincoln was a man of integrity and tenacity, rising from poverty to become one of our country’s most beloved presidents. Abraham Lincoln alongside George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson is sculpted into Mt.Rushmore, South Dakota. As President, Abraham Lincoln demonstrated courageous leadership by tackling the nation’s greatest problems with fearless determination.
Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky in 1809 in a one-room log cabin; he realized early on that achieving success would take continual diligent work and dedication. Having received what amounted to a year’s worth of schooling from itinerant teachers, Abraham Lincoln still managed to learn to read and write. What an admirable feat in itself. That he was able to continue his self-education until he was qualified to practice law is also astounding.
Abraham Lincoln defined the American Dream before that concept was embedded in the country’s consciousness as an integral component of what it means to be an American. He said that steady, persistent effort resulted in a “prosperous system, which opens the way for all, gives hope to all, and energy, and progress, and improvement of condition to all.”
While we admire Abraham Lincoln for his achievements, which included preserving the Union when challenged with civil war, putting an end to slavery and modernizing the nation’s financial institutions, we also admire Lincoln as a man. Throughout his life, he remained down-to-earth, approachable and engaging. Today, we might call him a man’s man. He enjoyed sports, laughed at off-color jokes and appreciated pretty women. In his personal life he endured many hardships. The greatest of which was him and his wife having four sons but the last three dying of different illnesses. I like to think that these difficulties helped shape him as a man and becoming one of our greatest leaders.
Almost immediately after Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States, the South seceded from the Union. He fought hard to negotiate a compromise in order to avoid the bloodshed of war. When Fort Sumter was fired upon in 1861, however, the President understood that war was inevitable, and he did not hesitate to take up his role as Commander-in-Chief. It is often in moments unseen to us, the public, that a leader must make those tough decisions. Although he resisted using Executive powers to abolish slavery because he felt the Constitution dictated that the issue be left to individual states, when he became convinced that emancipation was the right thing to do, he acted decisively. “I never in my life felt more certain that I was doing right than I do in signing this paper,” he said on January 1, 1863 as he signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865 by John Wilkes Booth (a confederate sympathizer) at Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC. It was only 5 days earlier that General Lee had surrendered the Confederate Army effectively ending the Civil War. Shortly before the American Civil War at last came to an end in 1865, Lincoln gave the greatest speech of his life: The Gettysburg Address. The brief speech is perhaps Lincoln’s greatest legacy, reaffirming the enduring attributes of a true democracy and demonstrating the wisdom of this undeniably fearless man.