Tomorrow will be my first full day with my Lincoln class. We are going to begin by focusing on our own beliefs about Lincoln. My class is a nice mix of new students along with those I taught last year in both regular and AP American history; this will give me a chance to gauge what we know or what we think we know about Lincoln. I am going to share some images of Lincoln that span both his life down to the present. [The image to the left is one of my favorites, which appeared in Salon magazine as part of a review of Tripp’s study.] This will hopefully give us a sense of how pervasive Lincoln’s image is and the ways it has been employed. Finally, I asked my students to read Lincoln’s December 1859 autobiography which he prepared for Illinois newspaperman Jesse Fell. Ending with Lincoln’s own words will give students an idea of how he remembered his own past before we dive into his early life next week with the Gienapp biography, and articles by Doug Wilson and Jean H. Baker.
The image of Lincoln above also provides an opportunity to comment on another Republican. Everyone is no doubt aware of the story involving Republican Senator Larry Craig. There is something disturbing about a public official who campaigns on issues of "family values", votes against gay rights legislation at every opportunity, and turns out to be gay. I wish Craig had the courage to serve as an openly gay member of the Senate and representative of the Log Cabin Republicans. Last I checked honesty and integrity were family values. How many more social conservatives are hiding their homosexuality? The Democrats have recently turned up the rhetoric in their attempt to attract social conservatives who are frustrated with the numerous scandals within the Republican Party. My advice is to keep your mouths shut and work on governing the country. Are our elected officials really the kinds of people we want telling us how to behave? If Democrats and Republicans wanted to be seen as representing family values they would have acted to address the damage done by Katrina more quickly, and they would be working at this very moment to end this nightmare that we’ve created in Iraq. Think of all the families that have been destroyed both here and in Iraq as we debate family values issues.