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February 7, 2018

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The Lincoln Legacy

November 4, 2017

Abraham Lincoln, our sixteenth President, was born and raised along the spine of America's heartland, the Ohio River. Born in Kentucky and raised in Indiana and later residing in Illinois as a lawyer, I imagine Lincoln having a slow-to-move depth of character that is the opposite of today's media cycles. For fun I try to imagine Lincoln on a show like Crossfire or Fox And Friends, the questions and innuendo flying around him in a flurry of aggressive baitings. He impassive gaze like something you'd see on the faces of Deepstack Extravaganza players, waiting until the wind dies down. "Your attention is not called to these...trivialities," he would say with a curt gesture of his right hand, "but to the real choices before us."


 The Lincoln Memorial in Lincoln City, Indiana is a moving structure. Built in 1943 and operated by the National Parks Service, the exterior features five sculptured panels and nine inscriptions drawn from Lincoln's writing. I found two of the inscriptions especially resonant in our time:

  1. "We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection," from his first inaugural address in March, 1861

  2. "Surely each man has as strong a motive now to preserve our liberties as each had then to establish them," from his message to Congress a few months later.

It is hard to read these words, and understand the turmoil the nation undertook at that time as Lincoln would appeal to Congress to accept his ordering up of troops after Fort Sumter and press onward toward civil war. And with all that he did to steer the nation through those wrenching times, it was James A. Garfield (a man similarly raised to Lincoln) who would hold, if for too short a while, the gift of inaugurating a new era of American idealism, with Frederick Douglas at his side...

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