Those of my generation will remember today is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. The month of February was a great one for school children – we had St. Valentine’s Day, the February school vacation (I lived in the greater Boston area) and we had the birthdays of Abe Lincoln and George Washington. School children today are not so blessed- they get a generic “President’s Day,” are fortunate if their schools have not outlawed St. Valentine’s celebrations in the name of political correctness and learn next to nothing positive about our great history.
How many of the younger generation know anything about Lincoln beyond the basics? Do they even teach the Gettysburg address anymore? The historical record declares Lincoln to have been a truly great orator. Type Abraham Lincoln Speeches into your browser and there are thousands of hits. I have taken a few excerpts here to commemorate a truly great speaker and President.
“I have never studied the art of paying compliments to women; but I must say that if all that has been said by orators and poets since the creation of the world in praise of women were applied to the women of America, it would not do them justice for their conduct during this war. I will close by saying, God bless the women of America!” The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VII, “Remarks at Closing of Sanitary Fair, Washington D.C.” (March 18, 1864), p. 254.
“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.” The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VII, “Reply to New York Workingmen’s Democratic Republican Association” (March 21, 1864), pp. 259-260.
“At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years. At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.” The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume I, “Address Before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois (January 27, 1838), p. 109.
This link will take you to a good source for some of Lincoln’s speeches- Selected Speeches of Abraham Lincoln.
Another little dig at what passes today for education- researching and presenting a reasoned argument- debating- is a skill of the past. Can you imagine any politician of our times engaging in a three-hour debate as did Lincoln and Douglas? Though the Lincoln/Douglas debates are history worth the investigating I will not go into it here. What is worth mentioning is this- the candidates had media issues much as today’s contenders for political office. The newspapers of the times were as partisan as the media today- but of course there was no TV and no soundbites!
The debates in Freeport, Quincy and Alton drew especially large numbers of people from neighboring states, as the issue of slavery, or the peculiar institution, was of monumental importance to citizens across the nation. Newspaper coverage of the debates was intense. Major papers from Chicago sent stenographers to create complete texts of each debate, which newspapers across the United States reprinted in full, with some partisan edits. Newspapers that supported Douglas edited his speeches to remove any errors made by the stenographers and to correct grammatical errors, while they left Lincoln’s speeches in the rough form in which they had been transcribed. In the same way, Republican papers edited Lincoln’s speeches, but left the Douglas texts as reported.
There have been some who dared compare Barack Obama to Lincoln. This being America they are of course entitled to their opinion. One which I do not share. There is perhaps one comparison to be made-
Those of us who lived through the abomination of the 2008 primaries and the Democratic national Convention can relate.Is it worth noting that after the highly contested race between Lincoln and Douglas there was a huge change in political parties? That is perhaps also something Obama fans can use to compare him to Lincoln.
As we all know Lincoln presided over a country so divided that States seceded and the Civil War ensued. We can only pray that Obama and his handlers do not cause such a rift.