Thursday, February 12, 2009
Happy 200th, Mr Lincoln.
Whenever I think of Abraham Lincoln, I think of this quote from Sarah Vowell's book The Partly Cloudy Patriot:
"How many of us drew [Lincoln's] beard in crayon? We built models of his boyhood cabin with Elmer's glue and toothpicks. We memorized the Gettysburg Address, reciting its ten sentences in stovepipe hats stapled out of black construction paper. The teachers taught us to like Washington and to respect Jefferson. But Lincoln - him they taught us to love."
The weekend that the WW II memorial opened, we went to see it and then strolled down the Mall to see Abe. I had been to D.C. several times, but hadn't visited the Lincoln Memorial since my first visit in 1984. It is so, so powerful to walk up those steps and crane your neck up at him sitting there. If our country has a secular saint, surely it's Abe Lincoln. What a gift he gave us, with his work and his words.
I get the impression that kids don't memorize poems, scriptures or famous speeches any more, which is a real shame, because some of Lincoln's beautiful phrases float around in my mind and give me as much pleasure as the bits of Shakespeare and Bible verses that float around in there, too.
"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right..."--that's a favorite. Also "the better angels of our nature" from his first inaugural speech.
There have been some really great books about Lincoln in the past few years, and one I recommend is Lincoln's Melancholy by Joshua Wolf Shenk. I haven't very often been as low in my life as he was in his, but I was inspired to read about the coping skills he developed and the way he was able to work through the sorrow and depression that plagued him. What a tremendous man he was.