Monday, November 13, 2006

Weekend Walkabout

My wife decided on Friday morning that we should take a weekend trip to Springfield, Illinois, our state capital. We left right after the Sabbath, and after four hours of driving through fields, arrived , checked-in, and went to sleep.

In the morning, after a twinge of disappointment about forgetting the camera, we embarked on our one day journey.

The town of Springfield is exceptionally ugly. Parking lots, boxy government buildings with no personality. Among them are sprinkled remnants of the original town.

The state Capitol is one of these architectural landmarks. It is truly a marvel of construction inside and out. Constructed of limestone, marble, and wood. Neo-classical style colonnades and cupola. Stained glass in the rotunda.

After that - the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Unlike my wife, I do not harbor an avid interest in American History, yet as the years go by, the person of Abraham Lincoln fascinates me more and more. Walking through the exhibits, I became much more aware of several aspects of this man that were not apparent to me before.

Immediately, you get an appreciation for his charisma. Partially it is his earnestness, his work ethic culled from a frontier childhood, his ability to express himself in a way that no modern statesman seems to possess.

You also get the sense of tragedy that was a constant presence in his life. Yet, some people believe that unlike many people, who are debilitated by tragedy and depression, Lincoln actually seemed to be driven by his melancholy to accomplish the task that was placed in front of him.

Lastly, this museum put into perspective how fickle public opinion can be. Lincoln is perhaps the greatest American president, yet during his tenure, he was viciously attacked and maligned by the press, other politicians, and Washington society. He was called a monkey, a devil, a country bumpkin, and worse. Yet, history judged him differently. And ultimately this is what matters.


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