Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Bicentennial Anniversary of Lincoln's Birth


I was born and raised in Illinois, the Land of Lincoln.

Growing up in the 1960's was a problematic time for those of us who needed heroes, as the deconstructing of the virtues of dead white men and their civilization got underway in that decade. Nevertheless, Abraham Lincoln was one of my heroes.
I read every book I could get my hands on about Lincoln's life and legacy.

I remember standing on tiptoe at the adult book checkout counter of the public library, handing over Carl Sandburg's Lincoln. The librarian peered over the counter at the little girl in braids, and then said, "Tell your mother that this is due in three weeks."

I learned to sing this song from my first music book, Music for Americans:
"Old Abe Lincoln, he came out of the wilderness . . . way down in Illinois!"
And this from the Illinois state song:
" . . . On the record of thy years,
Abraham Lincoln's name appears,
Grant and Logan, and our tears, Illinois, Illinois,
Grant and Logan, and our tears, Illinois."

In grade four, I won the county literary contest with my delivery of the Gettysburg Address, ending with the stirring phrase ". . . that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth" (November 19, 1863).

In the following year I won again with the recitation of Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address. I loved this part: " . . . With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in . . ." (March 4, 1865).

I learned in first grade that Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, near Hodginville, Kentucky; and as an Illinois schoolgirl, I had a school holiday every year on that date until I graduated from high school. I was taken to Lincoln's New Salem, Lincoln Log Cabin Stae Park, Lincoln's Home, the Old State Capitol, and to the sacred silence of Lincoln's Tomb, many times.

Today, I marvel that as an adult, I am here to honor the Bicentennial Anniversary of Lincoln's birth. In the '60s, I did not even think about how old I would be when Lincoln's 200th birthday came around!

Here is my favorite picture of Abraham Lincoln as 16th President of the United States, along with two very timely quotations by Lincoln:

"Property is the fruit of labor...property is desirable...is a positive good in the world. That some should be rich shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise. Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another; but let him labor diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built." Reply to New York Workingmen's Democratic Republican Association (March 21, 1864).

This is a very different than the plan of our current politicians to take from those who have worked to build their houses to pay for those who haven't.

"It is an old maxim and a very sound one, that he that dances should always pay the fiddler. Now, sir, in the present case, if any gentlemen, whose money is a burden to them, choose to lead off a dance, I am decidedly opposed to the people's money being used to pay the fiddler...all this to settle a question in which the people have no interest, and about which they care nothing. These capitalists generally act harmoniously, and in concert, to fleece the people, and now, that they have got into a quarrel with themselves, we are called upon to appropriate the people's money to settle the quarrel." - Abraham Lincoln, January 11, 1837

I only wish that the current President of the United States, also from Illinois, would harken to the homespun wisdom of a man born in a log cabin, rather than use the people's money to pay the fiddler to the tune of a so-called stimulus.

Abe, where are you when we need you?




2 comments:

Susan Ryan said...

Great information, Elisheva. We were just in Springfield on Saturday, and I thought (too late) that we should have run by the tomb. It is an overpowering experience.

I loved the pictures of A Lincoln when his hair is not quite right. He seemed to have a few of those.

The Bloomington Pantagraph has pulled together a lot of good information about Lincoln; Judge Davis, Fell, et al. (I think the Davis Mansion is staying open due to private interventions,despite Blago's closing attempts)

  said...

Alexander Gardner photograph of Abraham Lincoln, 1865.