The Better Angel
Happy Birthday Abraham Lincoln! It always amazes me that people revere him so much now, but while he was alive he was reviled by so many. And not just because of the Civil War, but because of his personality. He didn't curry favor and bring any of the traditional political protocol to the white house. Lincoln was a plain speaker, and a direct man. He like to talk and tell long stories and humerous anecdotes. He offended many in his own cabinet with his "simple", unassuming ways. There were plots against him from the first day of his election, and until his asassination in 1865 he was seen by a large number of Americans to be incompetent and indecisive. Now of course, those qualities are understood to be a greater vision, deeper intelligence and a steadfast hope for unity.
Abraham Lincoln was an incredibly eloquant writer. His speeches and declarations are famous and considered some of the best American writing in history. Even his notes and letters to friends and commanders in the field are small issues of art. For all his love of a good yarn, he adored poetry and could write as well as any.
Lincoln's family was almost as interesting as he was. Read Gore Vidal's historical novel "Lincoln" for a great look into his personal life from different views of intimate figures around him.
Greg, Cora and I went to see "The American Presidency", a collection of artifacts and memorabilia from all of the president's lives... I saw the gold inkwell that Lincoln used to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. I was touched. I didn't feel quite as overcome at the sight of Howard Taft's best suit, but it was pretty cool, too.
It's hard to believe that we've gone from Lincoln to the current administration. Here is an excerpt from Lincoln's first inaugeral address that Mr. Bush could well benefit from.
"Before entering upon so grave a matter as the destruction of our national fabric, with all its benefits, its memories, and its hopes, would it not be wise to ascertain precisely why we do it? Will you hazard so desperate a step while there is any possibility that any portion of the ills you fly from have no real existence? Will you, while the certain ills you fly to are greater than all the real ones you fly from, will you risk the commission of so fearful a mistake?"
This is a photo of the crowds at Gettysburg.