The first stop on our road trip was Springfield, where we visited the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. The museum truly is very unique the way it takes you on a “journey” of Lincoln’s life – and they certainly spared no expense on some very cool, interactive exhibits! (Full disclosure here – Illinois Bureau of Tourism is a client).
I’ve always felt a connection with Lincoln since we share a birthday (Feb. 12, in case you want to get me a present). When I was young, and we had to write essays in school about our hero, Lincoln was my go-to guy.
But learning more about Lincoln at the museum really increased my interest in his life and him as a person. It was interesting to learn how he has been mythologized as a hero over the years in a way that has almost become more legend than fact. To me, it’s more interesting to learn that Lincoln’s life was repeatedly touched by tragedy, that he was melancholy at times, that he told raunchy jokes, that his wife suffered from mental illness. It’s comforting to see what a real and multi-dimensional person he was.
Heroes and myths are all good and entertaining, especially for children, but as an adult it’s more powerful to get a true glimpse at a great character like Lincoln and see that he was a real person, that he was not perfect, but that he was still a great man. We need heroes that have faults and are relatable and, most importantly, believable.
On a side note, did you know Lincoln almost died twice when he was a younger boy? He even once got kicked in the head by a horse! And did you know him and Charles Darwin were born on the same day in the same year? Intriguing fact that prompted me to buy “Rebel Giants: The Revolutionary Lives of Abraham Lincoln & Charles Darwin” which talks about how these two men, born on the same day in very different places and circumstances went on to make significant contributions to society that continue to affect us today. I’ll let you know how reading that goes.
In the meantime, as the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth comes up this February, I encourage you to take another look at “Honest Abe” and get to know the real story behind the myth.