TERRE HAUTE —
How fitting it is that the movie “Lincoln” is a box-office hit this holiday season. America’s 16th president is known for a number of significant things, and among them is his inspired national leadership during the Civil War.
Stephen Spielberg’s new movie recounts in dramatic fashion the month’s leading up to Lincoln’s assassination, a time that coincided with the Confederate Army’s surrender to Union forces at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia.
Those with even the most basic understanding of U.S. history know that Abraham Lincoln was a complex character. He was a man of humble roots in the hills of northern Kentucky and southern Indiana who eventually made Illinois his home. His rise to the highest office in the land was as improbable as any American success story. That he would become one of the two most revered and respected presidents (George Washington is, of course, the other) in our nation’s history is remarkable, even astonishing, given how roundly and intensely hated he was by some during his troubled times.
Lincoln’s resurgence in popularity, thanks to Spielberg, is timely because of today’s holiday celebration. Thanksgiving was first observed as a national holiday in 1863 on the last Thursday in November.
At the time, the nation was bitterly and violently immersed in the Civil War. Lincoln, a deeply religious man, issued an eloquent proclamation that called on his fellow citizens to observe a “day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”
If ever there was a time when unifying thoughts and prayers were in America’s best interests, it was during the Civil War. Lincoln understood that, even when the nation he was trying so valiantly to preserve seemed hopelessly mired in conflict.
“We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us,” Lincoln declared in his proclamation. “And, we have vainly imagined in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own!”
Americans, as Lincoln accurately explained, are fortunate people. No matter what religion, if any, you practice, or what political ideology, if any, you prefer to believe, participating in a day of gratitude and acknowledgment that we live in the most magnificent country on Earth is an essential and appropriate exercise.
Thank you, Mr. Lincoln, for giving us this day and for encouraging us to have grateful hearts.