272 words for Abraham Lincoln

272 words for Abraham Lincoln
Happy 205th birthday, Abe-a-ham Yincoln!

Ask my two-year-old what Abraham Lincoln said about slavery, and he will emphatically declare, “ENOUGH!”

Our love affair with this historical figure began with Maira Kalman’s book and our patriotic unit in July, progressed with an October field trip to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM), and continues this February as we celebrate his birthday (with cake).

It wasn’t until we explored the ALPLM that the meaning of “slavery” clicked for my son…and for me. In 272 words, the same as the Gettysburg Address, here is my reflection on our trip to the ALPLM, and our country’s greatest president: 

Junior ran ahead to the next exhibit and abruptly stopped. Six wax figures were on display: In the center was a young black boy, reaching in vain to either side for his parents. The mother was to the boy’s right and tears rolled down her cheeks. The father’s face was a mix of of anger and desperation. All three were being restrained by white slave traders.

“Mommy- why dey are sad?”

“Because, buddy, this is what slavery did: it took the mommies and daddies away.”

We must have stood there 10 minutes, taking in the heart wrenching scene. Junior talked about it for days.

Until then, I had always envisioned the worst part of slavery to be worked to the bone and humiliated without pay. But in that moment, I realized that I could have handled hard manual labor. What I could not endure was someone tearing my family apart. That would break me.

“Lincoln loved his family, but he loved all people,” writes Kalman.

In Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, he states that it’s never easy to stand up for what is unpopular and to challenge the status quo. He continues by saying that it’s especially hard for those who are part of the majority: the white person fighting for blacks’ equality. Mandela says that those people sacrifice much: outcast from their own race and never fully accepted into the race for which they have fought so hard.

I view Abraham Lincoln in this way. Thank you for loving ALL people, and caring enough to fight for their freedom. Your legacy lives on, Abe. As Kalman says, “A great man is never truly gone.”

What does Abraham Lincoln’s legacy mean to you?

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