Integrity…

  …Courage…

     …Compassion

       …Perseverance…

         …Self-Initiative…

  …Principled leadership in public
and private life…

…Few individuals in history have as broadly exemplified such qualities as did Abraham Lincoln.  And few have so profoundly influenced American history and the American character as has our sixteenth president.

The story and example of Lincoln’s life--

  • his inspiring rise from humble origins to the highest office in the land

  • his abiding belief that our country’s founding promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are natural rights equally applicable to ALL people

  • his decisive leadership through the most harrowing and dangerous time in America’s history (the Civil War)

--continue to bring hope and inspiration to millions in America and around the world.

The Lincoln Family Home, 1809.
Source: Library of Congress Prints & Photos Catalog
Born on February 12, 1809 in a tiny log cabin in Kentucky, Abraham Lincoln was the second child of Nancy Hanks Lincoln and Thomas Lincoln, a pioneer farmer and carpenter.  Both parents were uneducated, and his mother, although intelligent, did not know how to read.  Despite this, young Abraham and his older sister Sarah did go to school on and off in their early years, before the family moved to the wilderness of Indiana.  Sadly, two years after their move, Nancy died of milk sickness in 1818.  Abraham was only ten years old. 

Lincoln studying.
Source: Project Gutenberg
Thomas Lincoln remarried the following year, to Sarah Bush Johnston, a widow and mother of three.  Abraham grew close to her, and she encouraged his education and quest for knowledge.  He loved his studies and books; and, in between working in the fields, doing odd-jobs for neighbors, and taking flatboats of cargo, he continued to read and educate himself.   He developed a passion for community politics and after moving to Illinois, he began participating in local debates, which led to him running for and winning a seat in the Illinois House of Representatives.  Lincoln’s interests in books, politics, and moral integrity brought him to study law, a field in which he earned a reputation as an outstanding lawyer.

As Lincoln built his career, he also began his family life.  He married Mary Todd in 1842 and the Lincoln’s had four sons together, although only one of the sons, Robert, lived into adulthood.  The same year the Lincolns’ second child was born, Lincoln won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.  Turmoil was already brewing in the United States, and the country was on the brink of dividing.  One of the sharply dividing factors was the economics and morality of slavery. For Lincoln, allowing slavery to continue was a departure from the Founding Fathers stated standards, set forth in their Declaration of Independence.

Abraham Lincoln & Family
Source: Library of Congress Prints & Photos Catalog
When Lincoln came into office as president of the United States in 1860, he faced an enormous charge--to reunite the United States and guide the country through war time. Lincoln succeeded not only in winning the Civil War and reuniting the country, but he also in issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, which was the first step to abolishing slavery in the U.S.   But despite the victory, Lincoln anguished over the loss of life and the division of families caused by the Civil War.  At its end, he instructed his Army to allow the Confederate soldiers to keep their horses, weapons and property as a gesture of compassion to help restore their dignity in defeat.

After his re-election, Lincoln began to lay the groundwork to rebuild the once-broken country; but Lincoln’s life was cut short before he could see the results of his efforts.  On April 14, 1865, the Lincolns attended a play at Ford’s Theater.  During the play John Wilkes Booth shot the president.  Lincoln died the next day and was laid to rest in the Oak Ridge Cemetery, near Springfield, IL.  That same year, the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified; slavery was abolished. 

The issues of Lincoln’s time—national unity, equality of opportunity, race relations, and the capacity of democratic institutions to peacefully resolve these issues—continue to this day to define the challenges facing our nation. He is best known for following a singular moral principle regarding “equality for all” and did so without evidence of wavering from that in his public or private life.  The ideals Lincoln espoused and the sentiments he expressed in keeping the nation together are as relevant today as they were in his troubled time.  Indeed, Lincoln continues to be a hero for our time.

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