Abraham Lincoln and the World He Lived In Print
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 14 December 2008 12:43
Cold and snowy. Present temperature 8 F. The high was forecast to be 13 but I don't think we made it. The ski resorts are rejoicing in tons of new power but the wind chills are formidable: -15F. Temps like that once floored me. Now I simply shrug and go out anyway like that hardened Coloradan that i've become.

As I blogged earlier, I went to Chicago this past week to pick up a car donated to the Institute.

A fire-engine red Mustang convertible with a lot of zip. It was fun to drive the 1200 miles home. Although we left home in a snowstorm and saw only fields of white from the plane, we drove back in a little bubble of cold sunshine and on blissfully dry roads.

At one point, I was only 30 miles or so from Fr. Mike's hometown of Washington, Illinois and would like to have made the pilgrimage but time was short and another man's home beckoned. I'll be back when they finally erect that shrine in Fr. Mike's honor.

Instead we stopped in Springfield - the capital - and visited Abraham Lincoln's home (part of a 4 block area of Victorian Springfield that is being preserved by the National Park Service.) It was comfortable but not luxurious. This is definitely not Mount Vernon or Monticello. Lincoln milked the cow and brought in the wood himself. Mary cooked dinner herself. But so far from the 16 X 18 log cabin in which he was born. The Park Service has the home decorated and furnished as if it were Christmas, 1860. It was to be Lincoln's last Christmas at home before moving to Washington, D.C.

Lincoln spoke these words as he left Springfield the following February, never to return:

"My friends, no one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell."

The bi-centennial of Lincoln's birth take place in February, 2009. It is easy to forget since he and Washington had their birthdays merged into a single holiday that most of us just think of as a three day weekend and department store sales.

But almost exactly 200 years after the "Great Emancipator" was born, another President from Illinois, the first African-American President - will be sworn in. Unimaginable during Lincoln's lifetime. Unimaginable within the living memory of some who will read these words. Lincoln's story deserves to be told again and again.

Many very grave issues - life issues, the financial crisis, terrorism - lie before us. But imagining Abraham Lincoln lying on the wooden floor of his modest family room, reading aloud to his family from the newspaper by firelight (the chairs weren't big enough for his 6'4" frame) that last Christmas, gave me a thrill.

In late December, 1860, six states had already seceded from the Union, millions still lived in slavery, and civil war was only months away. He did, in fact, face a task greater than that which faced George Washington. And he prevailed.

Profound cultural change, change that honors and protects the life and humanity of those once considered to be less than human, is possible. The world we live in, the world that our children will take for granted, is possible because men and women like Abraham Lincoln lived and changed their world.

May future Americans say the same of us with gratitude.