Lincoln's 200th celebrations

Outside of Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois, many students may not have noticed it, but one of America's most famous presidents turned 200 on Thursday: Abraham Lincoln. The bicentennial commission is nation-wide , but special celebrations occur in Kentucky (Lincoln's state of birth), Indiana (his boyhood home from age 7-21) and Illinois (age 21-51). I attended Indiana's state wide celebration with nearly one-thousand patriotic others at the capitol building in Indianapolis on February 12th.

Awards to schoolchildren, choirs and displays from over 30 state historic sites surrounded keynote speeches from Indiana's popular governor and its chief justice. Gov. Mitch Daniels, who previously served as Pres. Bush's OMB Director, and some feel is a potential presidential candidate in 2012, opened the festivities with a stirring speech on "talent and character." Speaking to the hundreds of youths in attendance, he reminded them that Lincoln had both qualities, but that in today's society we unfortunately value "talent" (celebrities, athletes) over "character." An avid historian, Daniels closed by reminding listeners that without George Washington "there was no country," but without Lincoln "there would be no perfect union."

The particularly important spot Hoosiers hold for our most fascinating and controversial president , comes not only from this state achieving statehood the very same year his family moved to Indiana (1816), but our civil war history is unparalleled:

Thanks to Republican Gov. Oliver Morton personally funding soldiers over objections from the Democrat-controlled state legislature, Indiana stepped up to the call for action from the onset.  In the first week, we basically doubled Lincoln's requested quota (6,200 men per state) with 12,000 volunteers. By war's end, the Hoosier State had over 210,000 men fight in the War Between the States. This was ten percent of the union army, 75.4% of men between the ages of 18-35, with nearly 25,000 dying to preserve the union. These were the highest numbers in the union and a magnanimous monument, which took 13 years to build, was christened in 1902 to honor such dedication.

Amidst teachers assigning young minds activities for Pres. Obama's inaugural and black history month, you'd think educators might see the ostensible connection of our new president to his "hero": the man who preserved the union against all odds, and whose army in turn eradicated the immoral practice of slavery in America. Based upon my experiences as a teacher, I did not hold my breath. {For starters, Google, known ignominiously for avoiding traditional American holidays, chose Charles Darwin ‘s 200th birthday today.}

Thanks to Obama's election and an educational establishment bereft of crucial knowledge, most feel Lincoln, by virtue of "freeing the slaves," would be a Democrat today. Others deem him a possible racist, which, considering most southern Democrats were, I suppose has some strange plausibility. Realizing however, that the Democratic Party enslaved southern blacks, then fought to continue that heinous practice, this is likely untrue. Even accepting the half truth of parties switching in the 60s, Abe would be a Republican today as evidenced by the Republican Party's platform then and now.

Lincoln was undoubtedly a perplexing figure, who, unlike most other presidents, has never faded form our memories. However, he most definitely had "conservative values." Our 16th president believed in the opportunity to work and freedom from government interference -- the latter very antithetical today's liberal rhetoric. Aside from some non-issues, we don't yet know what else Obama believes; and what we do so far, is dubious at best, daft at worst. Really then, being lawyers, and relocating to Illinois in their 20s, then briefly serving as senators, is about all Barack and Abe have in common. Comparing the former's few weeks in office to Lincoln's tenure is revisionism at its most audacious.

Indeed if Obama and Democrats refuse to acknowledge that presidential power is augmented during wartime, they would have reviled Lincoln as much as Democrats did in the 1860s, and they did again the past seven years. After all, Honest Abe suspended habeas corpus, jailed the Maryland legislature, and forced states to remain in the union against their will, among much else.  It's still unclear if today's Democrats cared about "abuses of power" by their own Wilson and FDR. These presidents had wars to win and people to free. Obama will hopefully realize this, lest he wind up on this notorious list.

Yet academia, and especially the media, has continued to tell America that historic Republican presidents would be Democrats:

"Warmongering" President Theodore Roosevelt, who initiated, among much else, the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, greatly overstepped his bounds without congressional approval. Churlish NY Times columnist Bob Herbert openly mocked John McCain and the GOP for invoking TR.  I should not, nor should anyone, have to clarify why Abraham Lincoln would belong to the same political party today as he did a century and a half ago. Even by 2009 standards, anyone with a working knowledge of US history should understand.

If my evidence is not enough, look culturally, and recall that Lincoln was the first president born in the "heartland" or "Red America," though back then it was deemed the Northwest Territory. The area, as much of it stands today, was poor and heavily rural, especially in the hills of Kentucky and Southern Indiana  where Lincoln was raised. Lincoln famously claimed he arrived in Indiana and found "many bears and buffaloes." The Lincoln family, like the colonists from the Revolution two generations prior, was pious and impecunious. 

As it is now, regionalism was prevalent among the masses in Lincoln's day. Coastal folks like his former failed general and 1864 election opponent, the cantankerous New Jerseyian George McClellan , mocked Lincoln for his lack of education (attended just one year of school) and his accent. Today, he'd no doubt be deemed a "backwoods hick"  by the masses, perhaps even "clinging to guns and religion." Bottom line: He would not fit into the elite 2009 Democrats. 

Like the other president we honor this week (Mr. Washington), Lincoln was neither a brilliant tactician nor an intellectual; he was perpetually polarizing; he made errors in judgment, and was considered indecisive at times. But akin to our country's first commander in chief and others at wartime, Mr. Lincoln learned steadily from experience, humility and an open mind.  "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt," he once mused.

Obama in fact, with his soaring "hope and change" pablum, socialist tendencies, charm, arrogance and massive popularity among the masses despite achievements not yet matching, is in fact more like FDR, on the 44th president's best day. (On his worst, he's  Jimmy Carter's doppelganger: augmenting a recession, trying to reduce unemployment with increased government spending, and still waffling on Islamic Jihadism.)

On his 1861 train trek from Illinois to Washington for his inauguration, with Civil War looming, Lincoln spoke about the importance of "preserving the union" on the eve of his 52nd birthday. He stood just one block from the State Capitol Building in downtown Indianapolis, and made his views clear to all. Though some question his religiosity, the man who mentioned G-d 14 times in his famous 700 word Second Inaugural, was clear:

"Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell."

This was decades before any schools were named in his honor, but now, thankfully, there are many. And for the 1.1 million Indiana schoolchildren who received special lesson packets from the bicentennial commission this year, Mr. Lincoln would be proud to know at least some of them will learn of his local upbringing, accomplishments and legacy.

Upon departing the Statehouse, I stepped out into a mid 40s, sunny winter's day and ate lunch by George Washington's statue -- "beloved by his countrymen" it read.  Indeed he was, as was Mr. Lincoln, whose downtown statue I also paused by on my way back to the office Thursday afternoon.

Happy 200th, Mr. President.

A former teacher, Ari Kaufman is a military historian from Indiana, the author of "Reclamation," and an Associate Fellow at the Sagamore Institute for Policy Research.
Outside of Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois, many students may not have noticed it, but one of America's most famous presidents turned 200 on Thursday: Abraham Lincoln. The bicentennial commission is nation-wide , but special celebrations occur in Kentucky (Lincoln's state of birth), Indiana (his boyhood home from age 7-21) and Illinois (age 21-51). I attended Indiana's state wide celebration with nearly one-thousand patriotic others at the capitol building in Indianapolis on February 12th.

Awards to schoolchildren, choirs and displays from over 30 state historic sites surrounded keynote speeches from Indiana's popular governor and its chief justice. Gov. Mitch Daniels, who previously served as Pres. Bush's OMB Director, and some feel is a potential presidential candidate in 2012, opened the festivities with a stirring speech on "talent and character." Speaking to the hundreds of youths in attendance, he reminded them that Lincoln had both qualities, but that in today's society we unfortunately value "talent" (celebrities, athletes) over "character." An avid historian, Daniels closed by reminding listeners that without George Washington "there was no country," but without Lincoln "there would be no perfect union."

The particularly important spot Hoosiers hold for our most fascinating and controversial president , comes not only from this state achieving statehood the very same year his family moved to Indiana (1816), but our civil war history is unparalleled:

Thanks to Republican Gov. Oliver Morton personally funding soldiers over objections from the Democrat-controlled state legislature, Indiana stepped up to the call for action from the onset.  In the first week, we basically doubled Lincoln's requested quota (6,200 men per state) with 12,000 volunteers. By war's end, the Hoosier State had over 210,000 men fight in the War Between the States. This was ten percent of the union army, 75.4% of men between the ages of 18-35, with nearly 25,000 dying to preserve the union. These were the highest numbers in the union and a magnanimous monument, which took 13 years to build, was christened in 1902 to honor such dedication.

Amidst teachers assigning young minds activities for Pres. Obama's inaugural and black history month, you'd think educators might see the ostensible connection of our new president to his "hero": the man who preserved the union against all odds, and whose army in turn eradicated the immoral practice of slavery in America. Based upon my experiences as a teacher, I did not hold my breath. {For starters, Google, known ignominiously for avoiding traditional American holidays, chose Charles Darwin ‘s 200th birthday today.}

Thanks to Obama's election and an educational establishment bereft of crucial knowledge, most feel Lincoln, by virtue of "freeing the slaves," would be a Democrat today. Others deem him a possible racist, which, considering most southern Democrats were, I suppose has some strange plausibility. Realizing however, that the Democratic Party enslaved southern blacks, then fought to continue that heinous practice, this is likely untrue. Even accepting the half truth of parties switching in the 60s, Abe would be a Republican today as evidenced by the Republican Party's platform then and now.

Lincoln was undoubtedly a perplexing figure, who, unlike most other presidents, has never faded form our memories. However, he most definitely had "conservative values." Our 16th president believed in the opportunity to work and freedom from government interference -- the latter very antithetical today's liberal rhetoric. Aside from some non-issues, we don't yet know what else Obama believes; and what we do so far, is dubious at best, daft at worst. Really then, being lawyers, and relocating to Illinois in their 20s, then briefly serving as senators, is about all Barack and Abe have in common. Comparing the former's few weeks in office to Lincoln's tenure is revisionism at its most audacious.

Indeed if Obama and Democrats refuse to acknowledge that presidential power is augmented during wartime, they would have reviled Lincoln as much as Democrats did in the 1860s, and they did again the past seven years. After all, Honest Abe suspended habeas corpus, jailed the Maryland legislature, and forced states to remain in the union against their will, among much else.  It's still unclear if today's Democrats cared about "abuses of power" by their own Wilson and FDR. These presidents had wars to win and people to free. Obama will hopefully realize this, lest he wind up on this notorious list.

Yet academia, and especially the media, has continued to tell America that historic Republican presidents would be Democrats:

"Warmongering" President Theodore Roosevelt, who initiated, among much else, the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, greatly overstepped his bounds without congressional approval. Churlish NY Times columnist Bob Herbert openly mocked John McCain and the GOP for invoking TR.  I should not, nor should anyone, have to clarify why Abraham Lincoln would belong to the same political party today as he did a century and a half ago. Even by 2009 standards, anyone with a working knowledge of US history should understand.

If my evidence is not enough, look culturally, and recall that Lincoln was the first president born in the "heartland" or "Red America," though back then it was deemed the Northwest Territory. The area, as much of it stands today, was poor and heavily rural, especially in the hills of Kentucky and Southern Indiana  where Lincoln was raised. Lincoln famously claimed he arrived in Indiana and found "many bears and buffaloes." The Lincoln family, like the colonists from the Revolution two generations prior, was pious and impecunious. 

As it is now, regionalism was prevalent among the masses in Lincoln's day. Coastal folks like his former failed general and 1864 election opponent, the cantankerous New Jerseyian George McClellan , mocked Lincoln for his lack of education (attended just one year of school) and his accent. Today, he'd no doubt be deemed a "backwoods hick"  by the masses, perhaps even "clinging to guns and religion." Bottom line: He would not fit into the elite 2009 Democrats. 

Like the other president we honor this week (Mr. Washington), Lincoln was neither a brilliant tactician nor an intellectual; he was perpetually polarizing; he made errors in judgment, and was considered indecisive at times. But akin to our country's first commander in chief and others at wartime, Mr. Lincoln learned steadily from experience, humility and an open mind.  "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt," he once mused.

Obama in fact, with his soaring "hope and change" pablum, socialist tendencies, charm, arrogance and massive popularity among the masses despite achievements not yet matching, is in fact more like FDR, on the 44th president's best day. (On his worst, he's  Jimmy Carter's doppelganger: augmenting a recession, trying to reduce unemployment with increased government spending, and still waffling on Islamic Jihadism.)

On his 1861 train trek from Illinois to Washington for his inauguration, with Civil War looming, Lincoln spoke about the importance of "preserving the union" on the eve of his 52nd birthday. He stood just one block from the State Capitol Building in downtown Indianapolis, and made his views clear to all. Though some question his religiosity, the man who mentioned G-d 14 times in his famous 700 word Second Inaugural, was clear:

"Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell."

This was decades before any schools were named in his honor, but now, thankfully, there are many. And for the 1.1 million Indiana schoolchildren who received special lesson packets from the bicentennial commission this year, Mr. Lincoln would be proud to know at least some of them will learn of his local upbringing, accomplishments and legacy.

Upon departing the Statehouse, I stepped out into a mid 40s, sunny winter's day and ate lunch by George Washington's statue -- "beloved by his countrymen" it read.  Indeed he was, as was Mr. Lincoln, whose downtown statue I also paused by on my way back to the office Thursday afternoon.

Happy 200th, Mr. President.

A former teacher, Ari Kaufman is a military historian from Indiana, the author of "Reclamation," and an Associate Fellow at the Sagamore Institute for Policy Research.