Today is Abraham Lincoln’s 205th birthday. For many historians, Lincoln was the nation’s greatest president. Almost since its birth, the young nation had been wrestling with issues that seemed to explode just as Lincoln took office. He led the U.S. through a bloody civil war, and he has been celebrated for generations as the Great Emancipator.
Lincoln’s life story has been an inspiration to generations of American youth. He was a scrawny young man who grew up in poverty. A man who was raised to understand the value of hard work but who also thirsted for knowledge. Many a child has heard the story of a young Abe Lincoln reading by candlelight after a hard day’s work.
He was a man whose life defined the word “persistence.” Obstacles that would have stopped a lesser man in his tracks did not stop Lincoln. He suffered many a heartbreak, and yet he persevered. He lost more elections than he won, but he never gave up.
And we all know the stories of Lincoln’s honesty and his wisdom.
An assassin’s bullet claimed Lincoln’s life just as the nation was emerging from that terrible war. Who knows what would have happened if he had lived to deal with the many issues the nation was facing?
Would the United States still have made the many mistakes it made during Reconstruction? Would it still have suffered through the tyranny of the Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow?
Of course, we’ll never know. But we’d like to think that if he had lived, Lincoln might have set us on a better path.
Regardless, we find ourselves thinking today of the many great lessons Lincoln taught us. And we offer gratitude for his persistence and vision.