Saturday, February 14, 2009

Frost: Lessons of Lincoln

In the following piece, Representative Paul Frost discusses lessons learned from the presidency of Abe Lincoln.

On Thursday, February 12, America celebrated the 200th Birthday of President Abraham Lincoln. I was pleased to attend a Joint Session of the State Legislature which honored President Lincoln and all his accomplishments. At this wonderful event, I couldn’t help but reflect on the troubling days and years ahead of us as a nation and ponder the lessons of Lincoln.

Our 16th President of the United States served at a time when Americans were the most divided. In 1861, within weeks of Lincoln being sworn into his first term of his presidency Americans were at war, not with another country but with each other.

Abraham Lincoln made sure our union would not be divided and set the course for all to be free despite the color of their skin. Not everything went perfect in his first term when it came to the war effort. The first person he asked to command the Union Army turned him down and eventually became the commanding general of the Confederacy. Then, several commanding generals had to be replaced due to ineffectiveness. At one time Washington, D.C. itself almost came under attack by the Confederate Army as they pushed north.

Americans were fighting Americans while other Americans were held in slavery. It was a conflict which was brewing from the day the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. Our forefathers chose not to deal with the issue of slavery as they believed all men were created equal and should be free. The hard feelings and racism of the era lasted long after the Civil War had ended. Regardless of the difficulty and the loss of many lives, Lincoln did not give up on doing what was right for the Union in this time of strife and uncertainty.

In the end, President Lincoln won the war, freed the slaves and kept America united and strong. Sadly his presidency did not continue into the reconstruction period of a post war America as his life was taken at the start of his second term of office by an assassin.

President Lincoln was a fighter. His life was a series of ups and downs, successes and failures. He had run for office and lost many times but never gave up and ultimately found a way to win. Lincoln spoke his mind and stood strong for what he believed was right. His speeches inspired people and he took a newly formed political party to the highest office in the land by becoming the first ever Republican President.

Today, our nation faces extremely tough, difficult and uncertain times as we watch our economy fail. Some economists say America is in deep trouble and some European economic think tank predicts the United States will fall apart and divide up within a decade. All elected officials and citizens alike, must learn from our 16th President. We must do and sacrifice what we can to keep our country together and strong. If we do, the United States will continue to shine as a beacon of peace and prosperity in this world. It would be more appropriate to use Lincoln’s own words about the fate of our country during the horrific times of the Civil War in his Gettysburg Address, “And that government of people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from this earth.” We are all responsible to keep Lincoln’s profound words and lessons alive today.