Illinois is my home state. Once upon a time, before the Monday Holiday Bill, Americans celebrated events on days other than Monday. Imagine that!
When I was a kid there was no such thing as Presidents’ Day, and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday – February 12th – was a state holiday in Illinois. It didn’t matter the day of the week; he was remembered on the anniversary of his birth.
Now all the presidents are lumped together and the holiday is seemingly little more than an opportunity to sell cars and mattresses.
I prefer to tip my cap to Mr. Lincoln on his birthday.
As he left Springfield on February 11, 1861 to assume the presidency, he spoke briefly to the large crowd which had assembled at the train station to see him off.
My friends, no one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.
He would never again see Illinois.
You’ll find the words of this speech carved into the wall of the north nave of the Washington Cathedral in our nation’s capital, along with a statue of Lincoln.