There was a three week training seminar I had to attend in Chicago as part of my new position with my employer at the time. They offered to fly me up from my home in Dallas but I chose to drive instead so I would have transportation during my stay in the Windy City. There wouldn't, of course, be much time to play and explore but having never spent much time in the area before then I wanted to take advantage of any opportunity that came up. My plan was to take the weekend prior to training to drive through some parts of the country that I also had never had occasion to see, one of which was "Lincolnland" in and around Springfield, the capital of Illinois.
Images and memories of elementary school history and indoctrination came flooding in to my mind, the earliest recollections in hearing about this uber-President who would have been canonized by now if the United States had its own unique religion. Where Washington is the Father of the Country and Teddy Roosevelt the Personality of the Nation, Abraham Lincoln is the Savior of the Land. Some leaders may wish to preside over a war but most certainly never one on their own shores involving their own people. The drive to Chicago was a perfect time to see where the views and politics of this domestic hero were formed.
Except for state government, Springfield offers little to outsiders beyond the sights and attractions involving "#16," Mr. Lincoln. He was Kentucky-born but made his bones as a lawyer and aspiring statesman in Central Illinois at a time when news from around the world took days in getting to the hinterlands as the telegraph was still being tinkered with and even the Pony Express had yet to begin service. Within this national backdrop and smack in the center of town is the "Lincoln Neighborhood" wherein lie four blocks of preserved brick streets, wooden homes, boardwalks and offices of the kind that seem right out of Central Casting for any given Michael Landon television series.
Not far away is the Old State Capitol Building, known as "Lincoln's Capitol." It was the 5th built for the state and served during Lincoln's time in state government and the setting for his first confrontation with Stephen Douglas as well as the "House Divided" speech of 1858 over the course and cause of slavery in America.
After touring this building as well as viewing his law offices and private home it was time to head north for Chicago in time for my training seminar the next morning. On the way out of town, however, no visit to the area could be complete without a visit to President Lincoln's final resting place, a massive structure featuring a towering obelisk towards the center of Oak Ridge Cemetery. At the front is a massive copper bust of the slain president whose nose is rubbed to a shiny finish from those who visit the site and express their sentiments in this manner.
The crypt of the building is circular at the center of which is the large red marble marker under which Mr. Lincoln's remains are buried. In the walls surrounding him are three of his four sons and his wife, Mary Todd. Lincoln himself is roped off but I was not above standing at the cordon and lowering my head in several moments of silence, thanking a man I could not possibly have ever met for thinking far enough in to the future and ultimately giving his life over an issue and for a nation that today includes me.
Rest in hard earned but well deserved peace, Mr. President.