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April 15th, 2009
03:55 PM ET

Our greatest president

Editor’s Note: You can read more Jami Floyd blogs on “In Session.”

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/03/11/lincoln.photograph/art.lincoln2.cnn.jpg caption="President Abraham Lincoln"]

Jami Floyd
AC360° Contributor
In Session Anchor

Abraham Lincoln died 144 years ago today. He’d been shot the day before, Good Friday, at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. The actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth, inflicted the mortal wound — a single shot to the head that would have killed most men instantly. Lincoln, however, held on for almost 10 hours, and died on April 15, 1865. He was 56 years old.

More than 14,000 books have been written about Lincoln. Why the fascination? Simply put, Lincoln was the greatest president of the world’s greatest democracy.

Here’s why: Lincoln freed the slaves, including my ancestors, which, of course, makes me a bit partial. Lincoln, however, went beyond the Emancipation; he helped pioneer modern race relations by welcoming black abolitionists like Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth to the White House at a time when African-Americans were still less than full people as a matter of law.

Lincoln also represents the best of the American dream. Talk about bootstraps: up from poverty all the way to the White House, a journey it would take most families generations to achieve, if ever they did, this extraordinary man managed it in a single lifetime.

Though Abe Lincoln received fewer than two years of formal education, he understood the power of the English language and used it change hearts and minds. He also knew when fewer words would serve better. The iconic Gettysburg address is just 10 sentences long. At Gettysburg, Lincoln brilliantly summarized the Civil War in two to three minutes.

Lincoln’s character was constant through America’s most difficult hour. Simply put, had the president been nearly any other than Lincoln at that moment in our history, the “United States” would likely not be.

Lincoln died just days after the Civil War ended. But our greatest president laid the groundwork for this to become the greatest of nations.

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Filed under: In Session • Jami Floyd
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Caitlin

    Thank you Mike!!! Just because we didn't vote for Obama doesn't mean we are racist.

    April 15, 2009 at 8:12 pm |
  2. Nick Palefsky

    While I certainly agree that Lincoln was among our most admired presidents for his leadership and accomplishments in preserving the union, I do not agree entirely with the proposition that he was best known for his freeing of the slaves. In fact, Lincoln had no regard for the slaves, he was only interested in preserving the union. He sought the emancipation as a way to preserve the union, he was not focused on the rights or freedom of slavery. Lincoln had a northern view of slavery that was against its spread and implementation but he was not entirely opposed to its use in the South. Lincoln was a great Republican, great American and above all a great president, but we must also recognize his faults that were as much a product of the times as his personal beliefs.

    April 15, 2009 at 7:34 pm |
  3. anonymous

    lincoln was our greatest president? when did this happen? did we take a vote? why didn't we get the memo? blasphemy we say! there were no great presidents, and washington was the only one that even came close to such a description. God bless John Wilkes Booth.

    April 15, 2009 at 7:20 pm |
  4. Mike Syracuse, NY

    Lincoln 'inherited' a country ready to rear itself apart. I bet there's not one Lincoln speech where he blamed his predecessor for the mess he stepped into. Good lesson for our current President, who admires Lincoln so much.

    April 15, 2009 at 7:08 pm |
  5. Mike Syracuse, NY

    Check your history Oliver. It was sothern Democrtas who opposed civil rights in the 60's. And no, there's no truth to your assertion that Republicans favored slavery.

    April 15, 2009 at 6:49 pm |
  6. Oliver

    What? He was a republican? I would have thought republicans were for slavery... but I guess I'm just thinking of today's "republicans".

    (Sorry, I know I'm generalising, but humour aside, you know there's some truth to this.)

    April 15, 2009 at 6:32 pm |
  7. Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd

    FDR was the greatest

    April 15, 2009 at 6:04 pm |
  8. Walker - Michigan

    The Last Good Republican

    April 15, 2009 at 5:53 pm |
  9. Heather,ca

    He was a great man from a historical perspective who experienced great loss early in his life and chose to use the pain to in constructive ways to make and build our country. He is responsible for acknowleding that we are all created equal as human beings. He provided a foundation on which to build and a words and ideala to live by. I just wish people in this country would realize how lucky we are and would treat each other as we are supposed to treat each other. Equally with dignity and respect no matter how you look. He was a great man.

    April 15, 2009 at 5:42 pm |
  10. earle,florida

    The "Mode of Character" ,that President Lincoln inspired has been retired for all eternity,...there are no duplicates.

    April 15, 2009 at 5:30 pm |
  11. Annie Kate

    Lincoln was also a consummate politician from staffing his Cabinet with the rivals to his Presidency to timing the Emancipation Proclamation after the Union victory at Antietam so the proclamation would come from a position of strength rather than what might be viewed as desperation. Lincoln was also a very compassionate President. With a lot of radical politicians at the end of the war calling for subjectation and punishment of the South, Lincoln called for forgiveness and a welcoming hand to the Southern states coming back into the Union. In his second inaugural address he stated at the end:

    "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

    When Boothe assassinated Lincoln, he killed the best friend the South had and the greatest President we shall probably ever see.

    April 15, 2009 at 5:28 pm |
  12. Martina Ilstad Germany

    I dont know why or what makes President Abraham Lincoln so special .I visited Ford Theater its a verry tragedy pleace,because you know here ended the life of a President who believed in human rights.When you visit Lincoln Monument in Washington DC you enjoy the selent there.

    April 15, 2009 at 5:06 pm |
  13. Martina Ilstad

    I dont know,why and what makes President Abraham Lincoln so special.Years ago i visited America and i visited Ford Theater.For me a verry special pleace,because here ended the life of a man, who believed in human rights.When i visited Washington DC i engoy the selent at Lincoln Monument.You feel the respect people have just know at this pleace.

    April 15, 2009 at 4:56 pm |
  14. Michael C. McHugh

    Lincoln was slow to accept the abolition of slavery, but he finally got there. He was very slow to accept the idea of voting rights and equal citizenship for blacks, but by the end of his life he was getting there. That's why Booth shot him, not long after he gave a speech suggesting that some blacks would be allowed to vote. Booth, the Cofederate spy and rabid racist said: "That's the last speech he'll ever give", and he was right. In that sense, he ensured that Lincoln went down in history as a martyr to the cause of democracy and human rights.

    April 15, 2009 at 4:33 pm |
  15. Chi Town

    My favorite Republican of all time...

    April 15, 2009 at 4:29 pm |