Monday, February 18, 2013

Presidents' Day: Lincoln Remembered

Abraham Lincoln, The Martyr, Victorious by John Sartain
I had a hard time composing a blog post about Abraham Lincoln and Presidents' Day this morning.  Sipping my coffee, I looked through several books, hoping to find a few inspirational quotes or anecdotes about Lincoln and the role of the United States Navy.

I found them.  The quotes were great.  It was shaping up to be a great blog post.  When I got to the blogger document to compose, I froze.  Something wasn't sitting.  The problem was, most of the quotes I sifted through were all too familiar.  Either paired in small sections on the navies or wordy introductions, the stories seem to overlap over time.

His close relationship with his naval officers.  The setup of the Atlantic blockade.  Several award-winning books are published on Lincoln's relationship with the Navy.   How many times can we include his speech about "Uncle Sam's web-feet" without it becoming dry and overused?

Unsatisfied, I stared at a blank blog page for twenty minutes.  The writing cursor blinked on the screen, laughing at me.  Frustrated (and admittedly waking up), I resorted to scour the Internet to see anything newly  published.  After an unsuccessful search on some scholarly websites, I throttled back and searched the web to see what the general public had to say.  One of the top hits about Lincoln and the U.S. Navy (after sifting through Wikipedia and the usual .org's) was a simple question from an answer-based website:

I wasn't alarmed by this.  After all, it's a question often asked.   I thought of the first time I stared at a blank screen.  It was December 29, 2009 - the first blog post ever written for the Civil War Navy Sesquicentennial.

Staring at that screen over three years ago, I asked the same question:  Why did Lincoln use the Navy?  Why is this important to the narrative of sesquicentennial remembrance?  Today above all others, why does Lincoln's memory hold more permanence than ever?  They say the easiest questions asked are the hardest to answer.  Perhaps there is some truth in that.

Today, we honor the men who stood resolute to foreign powers abroad and political and social change at home.  It is too easy for us to look back and judge these men by their actions.  Lincoln is not around today to tell us his introspective thoughts on the U.S. Navy, or the trials and tribulations faced by so many who gave all so some could go free.  Unfortunately, some of these stock quotes are all we have.

Today is the perfect day to reflect not on what Lincoln said, but what he did instead.  His words would be meaningless today if there was not decisive action backed behind them.  Not everyone agrees which presidents did their job to their best ability.  What we all can agree on is the impact Lincoln had for the United States and the advancement of today's greatest Navy.  

As long as people keeping asking questions, we still have plenty of work to do.  As Uncle Sam's "web-feet" should not be forgotten, nor should Lincoln.  

Full speed ahead,

Matthew T. Eng

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