We the People

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Politics and civil commentary with community columnist John Eyster.

Happy 205th birthday, Abraham Lincoln!

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John W. Eyster
Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Today is one of the 21 special observance days which WI state statutes REQUIRE public schools to “observe.” What does “observe” mean? The Department of Public Instruction's website provides the rationale for “observance” days, “Honoring observance days can teach the elements of tradition that preserve U.S. society and foster an awareness of our cultural heritage. Observance days can be part of a rich social studies curriculum that gives these individuals and events proper emphasis, both in the context of Wisconsin and U.S. history and in relation to their effect on or improvement of our political, economic, and social institutions.” It is interesting to note that while federal law has moved some of these to Monday legal holidays, WI states law recommends that each Wisconsin Special Observance Day be held on the day itself. Another note, “When an observance day falls on a Saturday or Sunday, it should be observed on the preceding Friday or the following Monday.”

You can read through the identity and descriptions for the “2013-14 School Year Observance Days.” What do YOU think about the 21 observance days? Should some be repealed? Would you nominate particular persons and/or events to be new observance days?

The DPI notes for Abraham Lincoln's Birthday observance day state, “Elected president in 1860, Abraham Lincoln was commander-in-chief during the Civil War. In 1863, he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that slaves held in the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free." Four months before his assassination, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery, was adopted.”

What would you identify as the major qualities of leadership which Abraham Lincoln brought to our US Presidency as he shepherded US (us—pronoun and US—United States) through the very, very severe crisis of CIVIL WAR (March 1861 inauguration—April 15, 1865 assassination)? IF Lincoln had lived, would his moderate plan for reconstruction of our US have been accepted by our US Congress and WE THE PEOPLE? In the midst of our present crisis, I believe LINCOLN has a great deal of guidance to offer us. What are YOUR thoughts? Please comment.

I have been reflecting on Abraham Lincoln's deft leadership of our USA during a MAJOR NATIONAL CRISIS with INTENSE POLARIZATION in our government which has prevented reasonable governance for our nation. For me, it is amazing to review how Abraham Lincoln approached his inauguration as President of the US on March 4, 1861 (Remember this was before we moved the Presidential Inauguration date to January 20.) as civil war was festering with South Carolina already having seceded from the Union in December 1860, but an attempt at a negotiated peace and continuing appeal to COMPROMISE in his Inaugural Address on March 4, 1861.

He concluded that Inaugural Address, "We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

Some argue that TODAY “COMPROMISE” is not possible. President Obama has been attacked as being weak when he worked for COMPROMISE. I would assert that COMPROMISE is a necessity for a healthy republic = representative democracy. Would you agree?

As I analyze the current crisis for our republic, I think we again are challenged by the meaning of that “more perfect union” which the founders worked to create. In context with assertion of the power of nullification of federal laws by STATES, Lincoln asserted that states could NOT NULLIFY federal law OR secede from the “more perfect union.”

If you want to learn more about the idea of "nullification," I suggest you use this link to read Wikipedia's feature article, "Nullification."

Lincoln asserted that the republic under the US Constitution of 1789 was different from the Articles of Confederation. Lincoln said that SECESSION—states' rights—was NOT to be allowed to overcome the US CONSTITUTION with its provision of the “SUPREMACY CLAUSE”!

If you want to learn more about the “supremacy clause,” I suggest you use this link to read Wikipedia's feature article, “Supremacy Clause.”

Our US Supreme Court has ruled that only the FEDERAL COURTS can declare a federal law UNCONSTITUTIONAL and states do NOT have authority to nullify a federal law. In spite of that US Supreme Court ruling, there are politicians who continue to declare that their states have the POWER to NULLIFY federal laws! What do YOU think?

As we celebrate the 205th anniversary of the birth of ABRAHAM LINCOLN, WE THE PEOPLE of JANESVILLE, WI have significant historic ties with ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

Have YOU seen the memorial identifying the site on SOUTH MAIN STREET where Lincoln delivered one of the early speeches of his campaign for US President in 1859?

If you want to review the dedication of that memorial, I noted it on October 5, 2011, “ABRAHAM LINCOLN in Janesville, Wisconsin New Monument Dedication.”

Unfortunately, the Young America Hall, where Lincoln spoke in 1859, was demolished more than 40 years ago, but the place of Lincoln's 1859 speech is now marked with a monument.

The stone monument has a plaque showing a photo of Lincoln taken around the time of his Janesville speech along with a bronze image of Young America Hall and an inscription. It was donated by the Skelly family in honor of Skelly's father, Vic Skelly, a former Janesville firefighter.

There are the OTHER LINCOLN LOCATIONS in Janesville—the LINCOLN-TALLMAN HOUSE where Lincoln visited the weekend of October 1-2-3. His visit was extended when he missed the Sunday morning train.

Lincoln then attended the church service with the Tallman family at the First Congregational Church. That visit to the church on Sunday, October 2, 1859, was celebrated by the congregation—now First Congregational United Church of Christ—on Sunday, September 27, 2009—the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's weekend visit in Janesville.

If you are interested in viewing the JATVMedia program of that special Service at First Congregational United Church of Christ, Janesville, use this link to the program,

As I conclude this WE THE PEOPLE blog post saluting the anniversary of the birth of ABRAHAM LINCOLN, I choose to use the same close as I used during the official opening ceremony each of the 30 years I was at The Lincoln Memorial with WASHINGTON SEMINAR (1973—2002) citing the 3 challenging resolutions called for by Lincoln as he completed his Gettysburg Address:

“ '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 –

(1) that these dead shall not have died in vain—

(2) that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and

(3) that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.'”

Happy 205th Birthday, Abraham Lincoln!

John W. Eyster lives in the Edgerton area. He is an adjunct professor assigned with the online/distance education faculty of Viterbo University, LaCrosse. He continues his personal mission supporting democracy/civics education in Wisconsin K-12 schools through Project Citizen, We the People, Discovering Democracy (Milton HS). John is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff or management.

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