Birthdays of heroic leaders give us powerful opportunities to introduce our children to some of the wonderful men and women who helped make America great.
February 12th is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.
When he was born, there was nothing to distinguish him from other babies.
As a young boy he enjoyed walking, running, wrestling, reading, and doing math.
Rising from the humblest of beginnings, he was elected President of the United States at a time of great national turmoil and division. His leadership was a key factor in the eventual unity and restoration that took place. He was a man with a mission, and that made all the difference.
Abraham Lincoln Resources Abraham Lincoln’s Life Stories The Civil War Speeches Proclamations Possible Activities to Enjoy on President Lincoln's Birthday
(Choose the activity (or activities) that you think could be fun and meaningful for your family.)
- Young Abe enjoyed wrestling, walking, running, and an early form of baseball. Spend some time enjoying one of these, or another sports activity your family enjoys. Talk about the importance of wholesome recreation.
- Abe loved cats. He adopted orphaned kittens, and enjoyed playing with them. He also enjoyed dogs and horses, and his family had two goats when they lived in the White House. You could spend some time enjoying your family pet(s), get a kitten for your family, spend some time with horses, or visit a local pet store.
- Abraham Lincoln loved collecting and telling jokes and stories. Each family member could find one or more stories or jokes to share with each other.
- Abe's favorite hobby was to read and learn.. Have a family read-a-thon complete with fun snacks and soft pillows to relax on. Abe loved to read so much that he sometimes borrowed books from others. You could go to the library and "borrow" some fun books to read -- maybe something about Lincoln -- or read some of the stories above. Or you could do some activities from the Resource and Activity Book to learn more about Abraham Lincoln.
- Abes favorite foods were fruit salad, cheese, and crackers. You could enjoy these for a fun snack while you participate in your activities.
- Abraham Lincoln had more than his share of struggles and failures. You could watch "Famous Failures" and talk about how our failures can help teach us what we need to know to succeed. Or you could tell a couple of experiences Lincoln had when he struggled with depression, and discuss how our struggles can help us grow.
- When he was president, Abraham Lincoln wrote a number of speeches and addresses that expressed his feelings. You could memorize or recite one of his speeches, like The Gettysburg Address, or The Emancipation Proclamation, or you could write something that expresses your feelings about America.
- One of the great accomplishments of Abraham Lincoln's life was helping to bring freedom to the slaves. You could watch this short video and talk about why that was so important.
- As an adult, President Lincoln enjoyed going to plays. You could go to a play together, or enjoy a modern day variation -- go to a movie, or watch a good video at home. You could include this one minute summary of President Lincoln's life.
- Abe enjoyed people and loved to visit with friends and neighbors. You could visit some friends or invite them to join you for some activities in your home. You could even bake a birthday cake and have a birthday party for Abraham Lincoln where you tell a little about him (see above), enjoy a few activities, sing Happy Birthday, and have cake and ice cream.
Abraham Lincoln's birthday is coming up on February 12th.
This is a great time to learn about him and tell stories to our children.
Below are some experiences from his childhood. They are from the book Four Great Americans
by James Baldwin. It is a wonderful book to read with children and is available in the public domain.
Amazon has Four Great Americans
available on Kindle and it is currently free of charge.
The Kentucky Home
Not far from Hodgensville, in Kentucky, there once lived a man whose name was Thomas Lincoln. This man had built for himself a little log cabin by the side of a brook, where there was an ever-flowing spring of water.
There was but one room in this cabin. On the side next to the brook there was a low doorway; and at one end there was a large fireplace, built of rough stones and clay.
The chimney was very broad at the bottom and narrow at the top. It was made of clay, with flat stones and slender sticks laid around the outside to keep it from falling apart.
In the wall, on one side of the fireplace, there was a square hole for a window. But there was no glass in this window. In the summer it was left open all the time. In cold weather a deerskin, or a piece of coarse cloth, was hung over it to keep out the wind and the snow.
At night, or on stormy days, the skin of a bear was hung across the doorway; for there was no door on hinges to be opened and shut.
There was no ceiling to the room. But the inmates of the cabin, by looking up, could see the bare rafters and the rough roof-boards, which Mr. Lincoln himself had split and hewn.
There was no floor, but only the bare ground that had been smoothed and beaten until it was as level and hard as pavement.
For chairs there were only blocks of wood and a rude bench on one side of the fireplace. The bed was a little platform of poles, on which were spread the furry skins of wild animals, and a patchwork quilt of homespun goods.
In this poor cabin, on the 12th of February, 1809, a baby boy was born. There was already one child in the family—a girl, two years old, whose name was Sarah.
The little boy grew and became strong like other babies, and his parents named him Abraham, after his grandfather, who had been killed by the Indians many years before.
When he was old enough to run about, he liked to play under the trees by the cabin door. Sometimes he would go with his little sister into the woods and watch the birds and the squirrels.
He had no playmates. He did not know the meaning of toys or playthings. But he was a happy child and had many pleasant ways.
(If you are unable to see the rest of the story, please click the tiny "Read More" link below.)
There was nothing noticeably special about the lanky frontier boy raised in a one-room log cabin in Kentucky. Considered lazy by some, his formal education lasted only one year.
Fortunately, Abraham Lincoln was a voracious reader. He was a serious student of the Bible and read it multiple times. He also loved classic works of literature and biographies of great people. Inspired by the books he read, he worked to rise above his difficult circumstances.
This 3 minute video gives valuable insights into Abe’s early years growing up on the Kentucky frontier.
Did you know that today is one of the most important dates in United States history?
Do you know why?
Exactly 150 years ago today, on January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the document that ended slavery for most of the four million slaves in the United States of America.
Known as the Emancipation Proclamation, President Lincoln penned the words that proclaimed slaves living in most of the South to be finally, and forever, free.
What a glorious day! Although long years of struggle remained, it was an important beginning.
And today is the sesquicentennial anniversary -- a day to remember and celebrate!
The Gettysburg Address
Tomorrow is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.
One important way to celebrate his birth is to read the things he said and wrote. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address lasts less than three minutes, but it is known as one of the greatest speeches in American history.
At a time of great turmoil, division, and suffering, President Lincoln’s words were healing and unifying. They invite all to give increased devotion to “a new birth of freedom” in America.
Here are two very different renditions of the Gettysburg Address. I love both! If we use our time well, our children are capable of happily learning and remembering much more than we realize. And they are much more likely to remember the things they memorize when they are young. How wonderful for them to carry our heritage in their minds and hearts!
The Gettysburg Address
"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
"But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
In His Own Words
"I was born Feb. 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky. My parents were both born in Virginia of undistinguished families - second families, perhaps I should say. My mother, who died in my tenth year, was of a family of the name of Hanks, some of whom now reside in Adams, and others in Macon counties, Illinois.
"My paternal grandfather, Abraham Lincoln, emigrated from Rockingham County, Virginia, to Kentucky, about 1781 or 2, where, a year or two later, he was killed by Indians, not in battle, but by stealth when he was laboring to open a farm in the forest.
His ancestors, who were Quakers, went to Virginia from Berks County, Pennsylvania. An effort to identify them with the New England family of the same name ended in nothing more definite than a similarity of Christian names in both families, such as Enoch, Levi, Mordecai, Solomon, Abraham and the like.
"My father, at the death of his father, was but six years of age; and he grew up, literally without education. He removed from Kentucky to what is now Spencer county, Indiana, in my eighth year. We reached our new home about the same time the state came into the Union. It was a wild region with many bears and other wild animals still in the woods. There I grew up. There were some school so called; but no qualification was ever required of a teacher beyond "readin, writin and cipherin," to the Rule of Three. If a straggler supposed to understand Latin happened to sojourn in the neighborhood, he was looked upon as a wizard. There was absolutely nothing to excite ambition for education. Of course when I came of age I did not know much. Still somehow, I could read, write and cipher to the Rule of Three; but that was all. I have not been to school since. The little advance I now have upon this store of education I have picked up from time to time under the pressure of necessity.
"I was raised to farm work, which I continued till I was twenty-two. At twenty-one I came to Illinois, and passed the first year in Illinois-Macon county. Then I got to New Salem (at that time in Sangamon, now in Menard county) where I remained a year as a sort of clerk in a store. Then came the Black Hawk War; and I was elected a Captain of Volunteers - a success which gave me more pleasure than any I have had since. I went the campaign, was elated, ran for the Legislature the same year (1832) and was beaten - the only time I have been beaten by the people. The next, and three succeeding biennial elections, I was elected to the Legislature. I was not a candidate afterwards. During this Legislative period I had studied law, and removed to Springfield to practice it. In 1846 I was once elected to the lower House of Congress. Was not a candidate for re-election. From 1849 to 1854, both inclusive, practiced law more assiduously than ever before. Always a Whig in politics, and generally on the Whig electoral tickets, making active canvasses. I was losing interest in politics, when the repeal of the Missouri Compromise aroused me again. What I have done since then is pretty well known.
"If any personal description of me is thought desirable, it may be said, I am, in height, six feet, four inches, nearly; lean in flesh, weighing, on an average, one hundred and eighty pounds; dark complexion, with coarse black hair, and gray eyes-no other marks or brands recollected."
Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies.
To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.
In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.
Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.
I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.
And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward,
Secretary of State
If You've Never Failed, You've Never Lived
"Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It's quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn't at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that's where you will find success."
- Thomas J. Watson (President of IBM)
Our kids need to know that the opposite of success isn't failure...It's quitting!