“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” – Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address
On this anniversary of Lincoln’s birthday, I’ve been thinking back on a conversation I had about 9 years ago. My oldest niece, Emily, then 9 years old, announced to me during a car ride, “Abraham Lincoln is my hero.” I asked her if she had been studying Abraham Lincoln in school, and she explained that because of President’s Day, her teacher had told her class about him, and she had read a book about him. At that time, Emily was adjusting to life without her mom, who had passed away just a few months before. She said that Abraham Lincoln’s mother died when he was 9 years old, and that even though he didn’t have his Mom, he went on to do important things. I was so taken with that conversation that I kept notes on it. I remember being impressed with her comprehension of what President Lincoln stood for and how she connected with his values. Here are some excerpts from that conversation:
Aunt Vicki: Emily, why is Abraham Lincoln your hero?
Emily: I think he was very brave. He stood up for what he thought was right. People should stand up for what they believe in even if other people don’t agree.
Aunt Vicki: What do you think he believed in?
Emily: Well, he thought that everybody should be treated the same. He didn’t think people should be treated differently because of their color and didn’t think it was right that people were slaves.
Aunt Vicki: So, what did he do to change that?
Emily: He fought to stop slavery and he won. A lot of people didn’t agree with him and got mad that he wanted to do that, but it didn’t stop him. It was what he believed was right.
Aunt Vicki: What happened because of what President Lincoln did to help the slaves?
Emily: The slaves got their freedom. But, a very bad man who didn’t like President Lincoln shot him and he died. That was very sad because he was a really good man.
Aunt Vicki: What did you learn from studying President Lincoln?
Emily: I think he overcame a lot of stuff to become President. And, he believed that all people should be treated the same and be free. It doesn’t matter what color someone is or where they come from. We should treat all people equally.
Emily is now 18 years old and off to college in the fall. It is interesting how the value of treating all people equally remains important to her. She is a fighter for the underdog, believes that we should give all people equal rights, and detests anything that represents anything else. I’m grateful that there are examples like President Lincoln who stood up for what they believed in as they provide lessons for others of valuing freedoms of all kinds. We could all learn a lot from President Lincoln, and from Emily, about the importance of freedom, education and equal rights for all.