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Four Years at the Mount

Historical Figures

Honest Abe

Leeanne Leary
Class of 2017

(2/2017) From the time I was three and begged my parents to let me go to pre-school with my older brother, I have always had a, maybe strange, love for being in school. I loved everything about it. I cherished sitting in the classroom and listening to my teachers. I was in awe that a person could know as much as some of these adults did. I loved the hallways, lunch, everything. My brother and sister were the complete opposite. They would rather be outside running in circles. They would probably have rather shoveled snow for a day or had sauerkraut for dinner than sit in a classroom for even 20 minutes.

Naturally, they mastered the art of playing sick. Seriously, they were "sick" so often that I know my mother stopped believing them, but would buy them ginger ale nonetheless and let them stay home. Who knows what they did on these days, I still donít. In my mind, as I sat at my desk in class, they probably ate all the chocolate or played video games all day, but they swore by their illnesses and were in bed by the time anybody else got home. I watched this happen for eight years, until October of my 8th grade year.

The day had come, I needed to skip school. I had watched both of my siblings perfect this performance for years and I knew what I needed to do. Get just a little bit sick the night before, not sick enough to have to miss practice or go to bed early, of course, but sick enough to plant a seed. Maybe a headache or an upset stomach? I canít remember now what ailed me that night, but it must have worked because when I woke up the next morning and was "too sick" to go to school, my parents didnít question me. My mom brought a glass of ginger ale to my night stand and told me to rest and call if I needed anything.

An hour or so went by and I heard the garage door shut slowly. I stood up, looked out my window, and watched as my dadís car turned left out of the cul-de-sac. I ran out of my bedroom, down the stairs, and grabbed the remote. I turned on the TV as quickly as possible and stood about four feet from it for a few minutes until I was sure I could turn and sit on the couch without missing anything.

I am utterly embarrassed now to admit to you what channel I turned to, so please, please, donít judge me for this.

I sat down and looked onward, the History Channel logo was at the bottom of the screen and I was filled with a joy and thrill that can only come to one 13-year-old who skipped school for the first time to watch an eight-hour long documentary on Abraham Lincoln.

I donít remember exactly when or how it happened, but at some point during an American History Class I had developed a sort of love for Abraham Lincoln. I was absolutely intrigued by everything about him. His life, nicknames, disposition, quirks, actions, philosophy, and more made him stand out, and so, I watched almost every minute of the documentary that day.

Even after eight hours of biographical information, my favorite things about Lincoln still werenít his road to the Presidency or his actions during his time in office.

I was drawn to Lincoln for various reasons, here they are:

  1. Neighbors from his childhood are recorded saying that he would readily walk miles to borrow a book. Lincoln lived in Perry County, Indiana at the time. Reading materials were in short supply in this area, and neither of his parents were literate. Lincolnís parents still encouraged him to read. To solve the obvious tribulation in play, Lincoln read his family Bible and he walked miles for books.
  2. He literally comes from the middle of nowhere. The man was born in Kentucky and moved to the wilderness of Indiana. He started his adult life in physical labor and ended up rising to the highest possible position of power and guiding our country through its most trying time in History. If this doesnít convince you that you can do anything, I donít know what will.
  3. He gained the popularity that eventually led to his first run in politics simply by being a great story-teller in the community. He was entertaining and friendly, and this led him to public office. This is appealing for obvious reasons.
  4. He couldnít settle into one career, we have this in common, him and I. Lincoln worked in manual labor, he was a store keeper, a postmaster, a general store owner, a politician, a lawyer, a politician again, and finally the President. This gives all the young people in the world a little bit of hope.
  5. Lincolnís cabinet, once elected President, was comprised almost only of his political rivals. He perfected "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer," in his first days in office.
  6. He had a little bit of spunk and a lot of defiance in him. He faced the same defiance from political opponents and even from those on his team, but he met it with the more of the same. In response to the siege of Fort Sumter, Lincoln distributed millions from the Treasury for war material without appropriation, he called for nearly 100,000 military volunteers without a declaration of war, and he suspended the writ of habeas corpus. Essentially, Lincoln did what he needed to do.
  7. He had values that were unpopular, and he stuck by them. His motives in the Civil War and in the freeing of slaves have their roots in his political and economic ideals, but he believed that all people, by the directive of our Founding Fathers, have certain rights. He fought to uphold these rights and was so revolutionary that he changed the face of our country forever. (Okay, this is an obvious one.)
  8. Lastly, he coined, "A house divided cannot stand," a phrase that has never lost its relevance or importance.

On February 12th I will be enjoying my annual ice cream in celebration of the birthday of the only man who has ever been cool enough for me to skip school. Happy Birthday, Honest Abe!

Read other articles by Leeanne Leary