Happy Birthday Abe!
Originally uploaded by lorenzodom
“Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
Abe was born on this day, February 12, in 1809 in a humble, one-room log cabin in southeast Hardin County, Kentucky. Americans will be honoring their 16th president this coming Monday on President’s Day, which commemorates both Lincoln’s and George Washington’s birthdays.
Notably, President Lincoln‘s humble origins have long served as anecdotal evidence that anyone can pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, regardless of circumstance, and make something of themselves.
Apart from having parents who were uneducated farmers, his family lost their home when he was seven, and his mother died when he was nine. After a few other moves and harsh winters, Abe finally decided to strike out on his own at the age of 22, canoeing down the Sangamon River to the village of New Salem. Later that year, he was hired to take goods to New Orleans via flatboat on the Sangamon, Illinois and Mississippi rivers.
Along this journey into adulthood, Lincoln had all but 18 months of formal schooling, and he was largely self-educated and an avid reader. With great political aspirations in mind, he eventually taught himself law and was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1837 at the age of 28. He went on to serve four terms in the state legislature and one term in the U.S. House of Representatives before he was elected President of the United States in 1860.
Much like President Obama is attempting to do today, ultimately Lincoln successfully led the country through one of its greatest internal crises, the American Civil War, successfully preserving the Union and ending slavery.
Thus, today, perhaps it is no mystery that Barack Obama has consciously chosen to follow in Lincoln’s footsteps every step of the way, ensuring that that Americans understand that he is honoring and hopefully building upon the strength and accomplishments of one of this country’s greatest leaders. (For more on this see Obama looks to Lincoln while launching presidency, AP, 2/12/09)
Alas, as the Civil War drew to a close, Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865 and became one of America’s first martyrs in the name of freedom and equality of all men.
"I leave you, hoping that the lamp of liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt that all men are created free and equal."
The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume II, "Speech at Chicago, Illinois" (July 10, 1858), p. 502.