I’m sure most of us had to write that fifth grade English assignment to commit to paper the name and background of a person who’d caught our eleven-year-old attention, a person who was larger-than-life, a person who had qualities we admired.
It’s been so many years since 5th grade, I’m a bit fuzzy on the person I chose—it was my dad, my mom, Helen Keller, or Abraham Lincoln. I think it might have been Abraham Lincoln because I clearly remember how taken I was when Mrs. Panatoni (my 5th grade teacher) read us a book about Lincoln as a young man. I liked that Lincoln was a poor backwoods yokel, I liked that he was honest and hard working, and I really liked that he loved a good book and spent many hours reading by candlelight.
I myself spent many hours reading by sunlight, 60 watt bulb, or flashlight.
Through the written word, Lincoln’s world, wisdom, and sense of justice expanded. His soul was basically a good soul made more compassionate by the precious words he devoured as a young man. He would go on to study and practice law, serve as an Illinois state legislator, and eventually become the 16th President of the United States.
As we approach the 4th of July, I’m a bit sad that our political leaders seem to have lost the ideals of grace and grit that make up a great leader. Our country’s Founding Fathers were not perfect men, but they perfectly understood the principles upon which this great nation should be built: democracy, checks and balances, small federal government, and state’s rights. It is a system in which the innate desire for individual freedom has freest reign; a system to which oppressed people around the world have looked for a pattern.
How tragic if this great country loses the sense of itself as a beacon of freedom, if, because of complacency, the citizens of the United States of America forfeit their basic inalienable rights, and certainly tragic if our elected leaders delude themselves into thinking that they are above the desires of the majority.
As I celebrate my country on the 4th of July, I will recommit to voting, contacting my Senators and Representatives in the House on vital issues, attending town meetings and rallies, and reading books and literature that will keep me informed.
I’m reading a great book right now entitled, The 5000 Year Leap. I think my hero, Abraham Lincoln, would have liked it.