Five hundred guests welcomed President Abraham Lincoln to the East Room today, where he spoke to youngsters about his life and how his early upbringing impacted his career choices and presidency.
Honest Abe’s presentation was the fourth in the Nixon Foundation’s summer series Meet the Presidents. Each program includes interactive presentations by a different American President, Q&A sessions with the children, photo opportunities, coloring time, and punch and cookies as a special treat.
The audience packed the East Room to listen to President Lincoln. He recalled his early upbringings, including the ever-famous tale of his log-cabin birth: “I went from a log cabin with dirt floors to the 16th President of the United States. Look where I am!”
He sought to instill that same sense of perseverance into the young people in the audience: “You have that very same opportunity for education that I had when I grew up. What you do with the opportunity is up to you.”
Lincoln began practicing law, and credited this part of his life with teaching him how to tell the truth. Though he represented both slaves and their masters in different cases during his days on the bar, he became firmly opposed to slavery. A local Illinois slave auction helped in that regard. “I detested it,” he told the crowd, “Slavery is wrong.” These early life experiences engrained abolition deeply into Lincoln, and set the stage for his future abolitionist agenda.
Of all the stages of his life, he recalled, practicing law was the best. As he advanced into the political arena, he spoke of his time “on the stump” and how he enjoyed connecting with people and broadening his constituency.
During the Q&A session, a young boy asked about the origins of the Civil War and what part the President played in resolving that conflict. President Lincoln responded by explaining that both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were under siege in 1861, and much had to be done in the way of personal and civil rights.
Reaction to President Lincoln was unanimously positive. Gregory Bean, a Cub Scout, commented that he “really liked it. It was very funny.” Among others, Nathan and Megan June also very much enjoyed the informative program.
Click here to view the slideshow of yesterday’s events.