In a previous life I think I must have known Abraham Lincoln.
I’m only half-kidding.
There is no other explanation for why, when I read about him, hear his speeches read aloud or see even the driest of documentaries having to do with him, I usually end up a sobbing mess. (Ok, there probably IS another explanation, like that I am overly sentimental, but I like the reincarnation aspect better.)
Lincoln tops my list of “If you could choose anyone living or dead to invite to dinner, who would it be?” Normally that game asks you to choose 5 people for a dinner party, but I’m greedy and don’t want to share my conversation. Our 16th President is the winner. No one else even comes close. (However, in case you’re interested, second would be Eleanor of Aquitaine.)
Of course, if you ask a cross-section of people anywhere in the country who their favorite President is, probably a lot of them would say Abraham Lincoln.
Let’s just say it’s not a surprising choice.
The thing is I like Lincoln more, the more I learn about him. An unusual occurrence, in my experience. I like him because he was far from perfect. He was not a saint who always knew that slavery was evil and made it his life’s purpose to end it. He struggled with his own prejudices for most of his life, but was able to overcome them. He did not set out to be a martyr for any cause. The men he chose to be in his Cabinet, for the most part, didn’t like him and thought they were much better suited than he to the office of President. It turned out to be a genius move. (If you have not read Doris Kearns Goodwins “Team of Rivals” you must. It is simply brilliant.)
So I look at Lincoln and I see an imperfect, intelligent man who accomplished what many thought was impossible. He wasn’t always perfectly scrupled about it – he even abused the power of the office of the President – suspending habeus corpus, threatening to imprison at least one of the Supreme Court justices who disagreed with him, among other things – but he saved the Union and freed a people.
Not a bad trade off, in my opinion.