Why Are Some People Famous? (February 12)

Did you ever wonder what it is that makes a person famous? Are we born to be famous? Are we some how gifted at birth with the skills necessary to be successful?

This Day in History

Lincoln Memorial

Today in 1809,  Abraham Lincoln was born in Hodgenville, Kentucky. He grew up living a poor pioneer life in Kentucky and Indiana. He only had one year of formal education, but taught himself to read and the law. As an adult he lived in Illinois and had many jobs including postmaster, surveyor and shop keeping. He was physically strong and was a legendary in Illinois for his wrestling skills, and he became known far and wide for his ability to entertain everyone with his folksy wit.  He then went into politics. He served in as a representative in Illnois from 1834-1836 and after that he became a lawyer. He married Mary Todd in 1842. They had four sons.

Abe Lincoln returned to politics in the 1850s when the issue of slavery was coming to a head. Licoln didn’t advocate abolition, but advocated restricting of slavery to the states where slavery already existed. During a the race for the  Illinois Senate in 1858, he warned his famous statement “a house divided against itself cannot stand”. He lost the Senate seat, but received national recognition because of his run for office.

In 1860, as a presidential candidate, Lincoln attempted to reassure slaveholders that he had no intention of ending slavery where it existed and preferred maintaining the union rather than freeing slaves. He carried the presidency by about 400 thousand popular votes and won the votes in the Electoral College.He was six foot, four inches tall, making him the tallest president.

He failed to keep South Carolina and the other southern states from seceding. By February 1, 1861 South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas had seceded. After the Civil War started, the remaining confederate states left as well. In 1863, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This document freed the slaves in the states of the confederacy, but did not prevent slave owners in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska or Arkansas from owning slaves.

His self-effacing sense of humor helped him during the depressing times of the Civil War. He admitted that he suffered depression throughout most of his adult life. During his Senate race debate his opponent called him two faced to which he replied. “If I had another face do you think I would wear this one?”

Even though his early views concerning slavery were considered wishy-washy, he has become known as The Great Emancipator. His greatest accomplishments were his dedication to preserving the union and signing the Emancipation Proclamation. This second act was the fuel to the fire that prompted John Wilkes Booth to assassinate him on April 14, 1865.

Abe Lincoln had neither wealth, education, or an especially optimistic outlook on life and yet he managed to do what most people of his day did not believe was possible. A lesser man would not have succeeded in the way that he succeeded. What was it that made him great? It was the focused determination to keep the union at all costs that kept him on course to keep the country together. In addition he had the foresight to know that he had to to draw the line in the sand admit his convictions concerning slavery. He stepped up to do the job even though he had known failure in the past. He didn’t quit, but remained focused on his objectives until the end.

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