Lincoln’s Legacy

The more you learn about Abraham Lincoln, the more you learn to admire him. He deserves his praise. Today is the two hundredth anniversary of his birth day, February 12, 1809. February 12, 2009, is only twenty-three days after another leader from Illinois stepped into Lincoln’s large shoes.

We all know that Lincoln managed to hold the Union together through victory in a protracted civil war. The standard stories often don’t relate how much that outcome depended on Lincoln’s determination and tenacity. Right up to the fall of 1864, when Atlanta fell, people pressed Lincoln to negotiate with the South to end the war. They even suggested that he retract the Emancipation Proclamation to conciliate the South.

Outcomes of war look inevitable in retrospect, but they don’t look so certain when you still have to fight for them. When we praise Lincoln now, and thank him, we recognize the material part he played to keep the United States one country and all free. The house did not divide and it did stand.

Interestingly, Lincoln’s ambition to lead brought the sectional crisis over slavery to a turning point. The country split because of his election, though Lincoln himself never recognized the separate status of the Confederate states. He regarded the Confederacy’s call to arms as a rebellion that had to be defeated. With wisdom and force of character, he succeeded.

Thank you, Mr. Lincoln, for the continuation of this great experiment. We may feel somewhat pessimistic about our prospects right now, but we have reasons to be hopeful, too. If Mr. Obama follows your example of leadership, as he wants to do, our hope may have some foundation.

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