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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Fascination with Lincoln continues

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A current popular movie and a recent election have folks talking about their fascination with America's 16th President, Abraham Lincoln.

In Nebraska, the state's capital city bears his name. A statue on the west steps of the State Capitol seems to beckon Nebraskans from the west to visit their seat of government. Likewise, a statue on the east steps of Lincoln's City Hall beckons the majority of the city's population who live east of that building.

I went to Lincoln Heights grade school in Scottsbluff. There was also a Lincoln Elementary in nearby Gering. My wife grew up in Lincoln County.

The Lincoln Highway dissects the state, closely parallel to Interstate Highway 80. It was Henry Bourne Joy, then President of Packard Motor Company, who convinced Congress to name the hard surface road from New York to California after his favorite president. Lincoln had worked as an attorney who helped Joy's father, railroad magnate James Joy, in his push to connect large parts of America by the iron rail.

Honest Abe served the country at a time of controversy and unrest as slavery led to Civil War. He died at the hands of an assassin while enjoying a night at the theater with his wife. It was during these struggles that some of his best-remembered sayings were recorded.

As shared by my late friend Nebraska Attorney General Robert Spire during a minor hiccup in the doings of state government, Spire quoted what Lincoln said when confronted about who was right in the Civil War. "My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right."

Lincoln, whose face appears on the humblest and most prolific of United States currency, the penny, said in defense of his sincerity and his own looks: "If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?" He noted later that "The Lord prefers common-looking people. That is why he made so many of them."

Interesting that the recent elections have sparked talk of the secession that Lincoln confronted during his presidency. What did Lincoln say in addition to the oft quoted "a house divided against itself cannot stand"? He said, "We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

Lincoln even had a warning for future generations of politicians that seems fitting today: "You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today." And for the rest of us, this reminder: "If you once forfeit the confidence of your fellow citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem. It is true that you may fool all of the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all of the time; but you can't fool all of the people all of the time."

Thank You President Lincoln!

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J.L. Schmidt
Capitol View
Nebraska Press Association