The Enduring Resonance of Abraham Lincoln - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
The Enduring Resonance of Abraham Lincoln

It was seven score and ten years ago today that President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in the Ford’s Theatre.

In a time that our country doesn’t know its history like it should, I am amazed how a 19th century political figure still resonates in the early part of the 21st century.

To put in perspective, President Kennedy was cut down nearly a century after Lincoln. Although there are still many around who remember where they were when JFK was shot in Dallas, I think Kennedy’s resonance has diminshed over the past 25 years or so. Some of this is no doubt due to the revelations of his personal behavior and, to some degree, the personal behavior of various members of the Kennedy clan.

If anything Lincoln’s resonance continues to grow. I think a great deal of it has to due with the fact that people associate Lincoln as the man who freed the slaves. While Lincoln always opposed slavery, history shows there were Americans far more committed to its abolition such as Horace Greeley. When he ran for President in 1860, he pledged not to abolish slavery, but rather to prevent its expansion. Lincoln also believed blacks to be inferior to whites. Nevertheless, Lincoln is forever associated with the 13th Amendment and far less remembered for suspending habeus corpus. An argument can be made that it took tremendous bravery on the part of Lincoln to go through with both measures. It must also be said that that the Emanicipation Proclamation certainly motivated John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators in the plot to kidnap and kill Lincoln and members of his cabinet.

There is also another aspect to Lincoln’s enduring resonance – trust. Advertisers have certainly taken note over the years. Have a look at how many TV commercials feature Lincoln’s likeness. Whether it’s selling burgers, cars, financial services or medicines, Lincoln is one hell of a pitchman. They don’t call him Honest Abe for nothing. There’s a good chance he was honest to his own detriment.

Even 150 years after his assassination, the void left by Abraham Lincoln has not been filled and very likely never will be. Anybody here seen my old friend Abraham, indeed. This isn’t to say all of our public officials do more harm than good. There are some who conduct themselves diligently, ethically and honestly. But too many elected officials, regardless of political party, neither represent nor aspire to “the better angels of our nature.” Then again Abraham Lincoln set the bar pretty high. Whether we seek elected office or whatever we aspire to in our day to day lives, it isn’t a question of filling Lincoln’s shoes; it is a question of better filling our own.




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