He was born in a one-room log cabin over 200 years ago on February 12, 1809 at Sinking Spring Farm in Kentucky. His name was Abraham Lincoln, son of Thomas and Nancy Lincoln. He became the 16th President of our country and led our nation through one of the most difficult times in its history.
I’m not certain why I’ve always been fascinated by this tall, gaunt man of the past. Back in the day, we celebrated Lincoln’s birthday across our country not lumping him in with all the rest of our Presidents — good and not so good — on President’s Day.
As a child, I remember being excited about Lincoln’s birthday at school and I read much about this American history icon and eagerly heralded him as my favorite President. Even after all these years, he’s still my favorite.
Lincoln experienced several tragedies starting with the loss of his mother who died when he was nine. His older sister died giving birth, and later a woman, who he was romantically interested in, also passed away.
After a couple of broken engagements, he eventually married Mary Todd. Together they had four sons, but only the oldest son, Robert Todd Lincoln, lived to adulthood.
History books report that both parents struggled with the deaths of their children and Abraham suffered from “melancholy,” what doctors today would diagnose as clinical depression.
Lincoln’s life ended tragically. While attending a play at the Ford Theatre in Washington with his wife Mary at his side, Lincoln was shot, mortally wounded by John Wilkes Booth and later died on April 15, 1865.
Many years ago, I saw Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC and I just recently read that a Center for Education and Leadership opens there this month, Lincoln’s birth month, “that will explore the lasting effect Abraham Lincoln’s presidency has had on our country.” I’m putting that on my “to see” list for the next time we venture to our nation’s capital.
I’ve visited a few other historical spots pertaining to Lincoln’s life. Our oldest daughter lived in the South for a few years. One fall, on our way to visit her there we drove through Kentucky, Lincoln’s birth state, and decided to visit a spot I longed to see – Abraham Lincoln’s birth place, a National Historical Park.
The photo at right is the memorial that was built over Lincoln’s birthplace, a log cabin. The photo above left is the spring for which the farm, Sinking Spring, was named.
I’ve also visited Gettysburg, PA several times and have actually stood in the bedroom of the David Wills House where Lincoln finished his Gettysburg Address.
I was just a teenager when I visited that spot, but I can still recall the sense of wonder I had just thinking that Lincoln stayed in that room considering what words he would add to finish his famous speech.
My husband is a devout history buff and we’ve visited many Civil War battlefields. At each of them, I’ve paused and thought about the hardships and the tremendous responsibility Lincoln endured while leading a nation at war with itself.
I often wondered if faith sustained him during the many difficult experiences of his life. From what I’ve read, Lincoln never actually belonged to any particular church, but he had a strong faith in God. He is quoted as having said, “I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how a man could look up into the heavens and say there is no God.”
His childhood family attended what was called a “Separate Baptist” church where high moral standards were preached, including the opposition of slavery. He was mostly self-educated and loved to read. No doubt, the Holy Bible was one of the books he devoutly read because he often quoted the Good Book.
One example I’ve found is written in a letter from Lincoln to George Ide and others, dated May 30, 1864. He penned this sentence, citing a verse from Genesis 3:19: “To read in the Bible, as the word of God himself, that ‘In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread,’ and to preach therefrom that, ‘In the sweat of other men’s faces shalt thou eat bread,’ to my mind can scarcely be reconciled with honest sincerity.”
I understand that he was referring to slavery here, but I can’t help but think that perhaps our modern day politicians should take note of what Lincoln had to say about living off others’ hard work when they consider the direction our country should take.
When speaking about the great war our country was battling, Lincoln said, “My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”
I truly think Lincoln was one of the greatest Presidents our country has ever seen. And again, I believe that if we studied history a little deeper and actually learned our lessons from the past, we’d be in a better place today.
I’d even go so far as to suggest that our current politicians and those who are seeking election this year who truly want to serve us – we, the people – would fulfill their roles well if they took heed from some of Lincoln’s thoughts:
- “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” ― Abraham Lincoln
- “We have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.” – Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation
Happy Birthday, President Lincoln. Honestly, in my eyes on this day in my book called Opportunity commemorating your life, you’re the best.
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