As far as I know we do not celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on the exact day February 12 anymore. We celebrate President’s Day instead. No wonder some children have no idea which presidents we celebrate. I asked a 10 year old and he thought the days off are to celebrate all our presidents. Most schools close for a long weekend and of course we all look forward to the sales. But I wonder how many of us remember the date.
Well I want to celebrate Abe Lincoln and remind people of some facts (not alternative ones) and some of his thoughtful, eloquent oratory. Abraham was the 16th president of the United States. He was born in 1809 and died victim of an assassination on April 15, 1865. He was still in office when his assassin John Wilkes Booth shot him at the Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Lincoln was born in Kentucky and the son of Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln. His mother died when he was just nine years old. He was self educated and loved to read. He ended up in the state of Illinois and became a lawyer and later ran as a Republican for a seat in the state senate and won at the age of twenty-five. He later became a congressman. He married Mary Todd and had four children.
We need to remember him for his Emancipation Proclamation in January of 1863 ordering for the freeing of slaves. This set forth the 13th Amendment which would free all slaves in the United States a few years later. During the Civil War Mr. Lincoln held the country together.
He is remembered for one of the greatest speeches in American History, He gave the speech at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863. It’s called the Gettysburg Address.
My first memory of knowing about our 16th president was a poem my teacher read us. She told us about how honorable and honest he was growing up and throughout his life. Two pretty good traits for a president.
I recently visited a family member whose home was built in 1865 and I had a flash back to that moment in my childhood when my teacher emphasized the importance of honest. I looked around the house. It was built around the time we had lost a great and beloved president. He was just fifty-two years old.
Here are a few of the quotes I remember learning about in school and thank my teacher for teaching us that these were quotes to live by. I think we must remember their value.
“No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.”
“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.”
“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.”
The Gettysburg Address
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Yesterday was a historic day and no matter what side you take, we are obligated to go back and seek the wisdom and even the not so smart doings in our history. It is said that history repeats itself. It is also said that it takes many lives to learn our lessons well.
I am encouraged to look for the teachings of all great leaders but also of the horrible ones. We must read with careful analysis and be able to make intelligent inferences. In the end it boils down to one very important concept: To thyself be true and the truth will prevail.
God bless America!
“From the outset, Hamilton feared an unholy trinity of traits in a future president — ambition, avarice and vanity,” – Federalist Papers
“How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy!” ― Thomas Jefferson
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”Amendment I,
– The U.S. Constitution
“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” Thomas Jefferson
“Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.” -Thomas Jefferson
I remember that afternoon vividly. I was in the sixth grade and our teacher, Miss McCann would teach us math after recess. She was very stern but we loved her dearly. I remember her distinctive gait and posture. She was very proud of her Irish heritage and thanks to her I know a few Irish songs and blessings by heart. That tragic afternoon, she walked into the classroom at a very slow pace and she tried to hide her face. Her blue eyes were blood-shot and her hair was disheveled. Everyone looked at each other wondering was was going on. She usually walked in the room swiftly asking us if we were doing something productive. There was always a mischievous smile on her face.
Everyone was unusually quiet. There was dead silence in the room. She looked confused and bewildered. She did not say a word for a few minutes. Normally five of us would have been sent to the chalkboard to solve a math problem during the first five minutes of class.
All of a sudden she began to weep frantically. I for one cannot see anyone in tears. I get misty eyed almost immediately. She sat in her chair and just stared at us. She snapped out of her stupor when a boy in the class had the nerve to ask her what was wrong. With a huge lump in her throat and watery eyes she finally told us. “Our President is dead boys and girls, she whimpered. Some of us cried and others remained very quiet and in shock. It was not as if we had not experienced death before in our lives. We had lost a classmate earlier in the school year. He had died from Leukemia. So collectively we had suffered loss. She finally calmed down after a while and the principal came in to ask us how were coping. His eyes were a little red also.
I remember getting home and turning on the television right away. All the programming on the major networks was in reference to the president’s assassination. There were no cable channels or CNN but the reality of this national tragedy was all anyone could think and talk about. It went on for days.
It’s amazing how a tragic event makes us see things differently. You are more appreciative of the simple things. My mother hugged me extra tightly that evening. I saw my dad in tears. He had cried in my presence once before when I was very ill with a high fever and the flu. The doctor would make house calls and he must have said something to upset my dad and I heard him crying. It was not until years later that I knew why he had broken down. Apparently the doctor wanted to admit to me to the hospital because I had such a high fever. The fever subsided and I never did go to the hospital.
I watched many of the tributes today on the television and heard and read accounts of how people were affected by the untimely and tragic death of our beloved president. I remembered my teacher and my dad most especially. We were all family then. It was a time to mourn and reflect and fifty years later I suppose it still is.
I have always feared the idea of developing Alzheimer’s. I cannot imagine not being able to recognize a loved one. I dread thinking of myself being incapable to handle a fork or knife because I have forgotten how to use them. I find this disease one of the saddest and most lonely. But sometimes there are things that I want to forget. There are things that I love to erase from my mind completely. These feeling emerge when I contaminate my brain with too many horrific headlines. The following poem is about the things I want to forget. What are some things that you want to forget or erase from collective memory?Please submit your comments.
What I Want to Forget
I want to forget the images of under nourished and abused children.
I want to forget the cruelty inflicted upon human beings in war-torn nations.
I want to forget some of the stories I heard as a child about the Holocaust.
I want to forget that so many people in this country go to bed hungry.
I want to forget how so many suffer with incurable diseases because there is no funding to find cures.
I want to forget the sounds of the respirator hooked up to my sister when she was in diabetic coma.
I want to forget about the social wars we wage every day with out end like the war on drugs and violence.
I guess I just want to forget the bad stuff. I want to forget the stuff that questions our humanity.
I suppose I am a dreamer. Or maybe I am in a dream hoping for a better world when I awake.
I do believe that we can help to erase some of these negative things if we join our efforts.
Our humanity is not a figment of our imaginations. Let’s not conform to say that we will never forget some of these atrocities.
I believe that what we can learn to say is that we will not allow any of these things to continue to happen on our watch.