Many failures, self discipline and the fight against slavery with wit, immortalised Abraham Lincoln as the greatest
“The best way to predict your future is to create it”
The human race is ever fond of heroes. In all ages the distinguished personages have been reverenced and often worshipped as demigods. One such demigod that human race put a halo on was Abraham Lincoln.
The man who preserved the Union and issued the Emancipation Proclamation came into this world on February 12, 1809. (Abe) Lincoln was born in humble surroundings, a one-room log cabin with dirt floors in Hardin County, Kentucky. Little would have anyone imagined that this boy would rise from the small cabin to the biggest office of his nation.
Lincoln led the United States through the American Civil War (1861-65) – its bloodiest war and perhaps its greatest moral, constitutional, and political crisis. In doing so, he preserved the Union, abolished slavery, strengthened the federal government, and modernised the economy.
Did You Know that Abraham Lincoln did not like being called ‘Abe’. However, the name stuck with him as his political managers insisted on the nickname to make him seem more approachable.
The Great Emancipator
As a young man, Lincoln had witnessed the slave system when he twice traveled down the Mississippi River on a raft to New Orleans. Later, Lincoln witnessed slavery in Kentucky when he visited friends and family in the state of his birth. Lincoln also understood firsthand the impact of racism on local life and politics in Springfield.
These Springfield African Americans had an impact on Lincoln that was far greater than their numbers there. The impact was strong enough for him to takw a strong stand against the extension of slavery. Although, he confessed not to know what the solution was to extinguish slavery, he was uncompromising in his assertion of the humanity and rights of black Americans – something which was frequently denied by his opponents.
In his speeches against the extension of slavery, Lincoln’s impact on his audience was based on reason and analysis rather than rhetorical flourishes. For his this approach, he was immortalised as the “Great Emancipator”, a champion of black freedom who supported social equality of the races, and who fought the American Civil War to free the slaves.
Into the Black Folk
Lincoln was the greatest hero to all the black people. He brought forth the 13th Amendment to the Constitution that abolished slavery.
It declared: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
And thus he entered into the mythology of black folk all over the United States that he liberated and reunited as the United States of America, once again.
The Gettysburg Speech
Delivered on the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, the “Gettysburg Address” is known as the greatest speech in the world – and certainly as one of Abraham Lincoln’s most defining moments of creating legends, a reborn Union, and living history.
Four months earlier, 46,000 soldiers from both sides of the Civil War had been killed or wounded in the Battle of Gettysburg, in Pennsylvania.
Altogether, only 273 words were delivered by Lincoln at the official dedication ceremony for the National Cemetery at the battle site, on November 19th of 1863, where the tall President called upon the fundamental principles of the United States as the Declaration of Independence and the Union’s ideals proclaimed “a government of the people, by the people, for the people”.
The speech’s legacy and lasting impact has seen American schoolchildren throughout the years taught to recite the historical phrasings, while subsequent Presidents are also said to have used the speech as a map for governance in the USA.
Failures & Self-Discipline
Born into poverty, Lincoln was faced with defeat throughout his life. He lost eight elections, failed in business twice and suffered a nervous breakdown. He could have quit many times, but he didn’t. And instead went on to become one of the greatest presidents in the history of America.
Lincoln was a champion of never giving up, and one of the best examples for others to get motivated to never quit. And this persistence was his strength – this and self-discipline, with which he used those strengths for the right purpose.
A key to this transformation, from a poverty-surrounded boy to the president of his nation, was how Lincoln developed the self-discipline to take one of his signature strengths – his mastery of language – and used it to serve the interests of the American people rather than his own.
Lincoln was undoubtedly one of the greatest communicators among all American presidents. His words – as a public speaker, writer, debater, and conversationalist – continue to entertain, educate, and inspire people to this day.
Although, this wasn’t something he was gifted, but rather developed with his own efforts. With only one year of formal schooling, Lincoln consciously cultivated this mastery of language and expression on his own. As a young boy he would practice public speaking by gathering his friends together and stepping onto a stump to address them.
During his days as a lawyer in Illinois, Lincoln would frequently meet up in the evening with friends at a tavern where they would engage in story-telling contests. And he gleaned valuable lessons in rhetoric by diligently studying Shakespeare.
Stories & Humour
There’s an Abraham Lincoln we all know: the tall, bearded, bold president who freed the slaves with his axe while fighting off the Confederate Army. But there was an other side to his serious stature.
Abraham Lincoln was a compulsive teller of stories and jokes, the first president to make laughter a tool of office. Stories and humor were nearly as important to him as oxygen and water. It was as though they ran in his blood.
Many suggest that humor helped offset his natural sadness – that it was an escape from the internal and external pressures and events of his life. On the other hand, it gave a wit to his words and actions against his opponents.
Journalist Henry Villard once noted that Lincoln could find a story “to explain a meaning or enforce a point, the aptness of which was always perfect.”
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