After spending a wonderful day in Louisville, the next day we made our way home with a stop on the way to visit the birthplace of America’s 16th president- Abraham Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky, but then moved with his family to Illinois when he was 2 years old. Lincoln was self educated, learning how to read from the family Bible and continued his own studies by reading as many books as he could. He would later become a lawyer, then a statesman for Illinois, and then a congressman, and was elected to be president in 1860. He served as president until his assassination in 1865 and during that time he led the nation through the Civil War which has been called the country’s greatest moral, cultural, constitutional, and political crisis. It was by his leadership that the Union was preserved and slavery abolished. This monument to his humble beginning is the first of many monuments dedicated to his life and work.
We started in the visitor center where we watched a beautifully made video about Lincoln. The visitor center holds the family Bible that was the beginning of his education and some of the family heirlooms that they brought with them when they moved to Illinois. I really loved the picture of Lincoln made out of pennies since it is his image that is the face of penny.
After the visitor center we made our way up the green slope towards the monument. The monument is currently covered in purple and black bunting (a traditional Victorian custom of mourning) to mark the 156th anniversary of Lincoln’s death. I included a picture of the monument from a previous visit so you can see more of the detail in the building. Built in February 1909 to commemorate the centennial of Lincoln’s birth, this monument is a symbolic representation of the president’s life. There are 56 steps leading up to the monument that represents his 56 years that he lived. There are 16 windows, 16 fence poles, and 16 rosettes on the ceiling because he was the 16th president. Inside the memorial building is a reproduction of the original one room log cabin where Lincoln was born. This monument is a thoughtful tribute to such a great man as you see the small cabin that he was born and the Bible that he used to learn to read and consider all that he went on to do in his life. The inscription on top of the building reads “Here over the log cabin where Abraham Lincoln was born, destined to preserve the Union and free the Slave, a grateful people have dedicated memorial to unity, peace, and brotherhood among these states.”
Lately there is a thread of negative thought regarding President Lincoln. There are people who feel that his statue doesn’t deserve to stand and his name should be removed because he didn’t do enough while he was president. This is a man who faced a country torn apart by conflict and division, who sought peace and freedom and unity and who in the course of his leadership led the country out of slavery and into a new age. He may not have been perfect, but I feel that he did the very best that he could in such an incredibly difficult position. I for one would not ever want my efforts judged so harshly- to be told that not only were my efforts not enough, but that they were unworthy of notice at all and have all of it torn down. 150 years after his presidency people want to judge him and condemn him based on current opinions without giving any thought, credit, or praise for the great things that he did. Were there things he could have done better as president? Probably. But that should not take away from the many great things that he accomplished during his office. A man’s accomplishments for good still stand even if those things fall short in popular opinion. This opinion will be unpopular- but I feel that it is important to honor history and to really understand our history so we can learn from it, and that we should never tear down and destroy history because of the parts that make us uncomfortable. I believe in allowing the grace to be imperfect, because we are all wonderfully imperfect, and instead of looking for reasons to be offended we give more fully of ourselves with kindness and understanding. This is just my opinion- and it’s okay if you and I have a different opinion- we can still be kind to one another.
For more information on this first of many monuments dedicated to Abraham Lincoln, go to :: nps.gov/abli