February 12th is the 200 birthday of Abraham Lincoln. Arguably one of our greatest presidents, Lincoln will be remembered and honored throughout the country. Presidential scholars, Civil War aficianados and history buffs will use this day and this year to analyze what made Lincoln such a great figure, a true American icon.
The greatness of Lincoln is often associated with his response to our nation’s most serious crisis, as North and South divided this country for four long years. Lincoln is credited with saving the Republic and giving his life to preserve the Union, which is why the United States of America owes an eternal debt of gratitude to Lincoln’s for his fierce determination to keep the country one and whole.
But Lincoln was much more than a uniter and savior of the Union; he was a superb politician, a great orator, a brilliant writer, a moral visionary and a no nonsense commander in chief. In short, Lincoln possessed all the qualities that we Americans hope our national leaders will develop. It would be reassuring to know that there are many Lincolns in public life, but sad to say there are few.
Most of us remember Lincoln for his Gettysburg Address, perhaps the most moving speech in the history of our country, and his Emancipation Proclamation, that began the long journey of African-Americans to freedom. But not all of us know that Lincoln was a savvy manager of his closest advisors, who were competitors for power rather than loyal servants of the national interest. Not all of us know that Lincoln often took personal control of battlefield strategy when faced with a corps of generals who were either incompetent or reluctant to fight. And not all of us know that Lincoln was willing to suspend some Constitutional guarantees in order to preserve order and security during time of war.
As many great leaders during a national crisis, Lincoln was never that popular, and certainly was hated by those in the Confederacy. Lincoln was a lonely leader who carried the burden of the office on his shoulders, which led to what many historians now view as serious fits of depression. Those pictures from the last year of his life as President show a man emotionally devastated and deeply saddened by the enormous challenges that he faced on a daily basis.
So these next few days and this entire year will be a time to pay homage to a great man and a great president, who gave his life for our nation. Happy Birthday, Abe.