Back in the days before President’s Day, the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12) and George Washington (Feb. 22) were celebrated separately as national holidays. That made February a very good month for me since it meant that I didn’t have to go to school three days that month; we also had Feb. 11th as a holiday: can you guess what is celebrated that day?

All our presidents deserved to be honored. The job they had (have) to do was (is) extremely difficult and they pay a very high emotional and physical price. Just look at pictures of our recent presidents on their inauguration day and compare them to photos four years later. They look like they’ve aged forty years during that time span.

Abraham Lincoln is a favorite of mine because he embodies the American concept of the ‘self-made’ man. From very humble beginnings he rose to become the sixteenth president. Moreover, his presidency occurred during one of the most difficult times in our history. I also admire his way of communicating lofty and noble ideas in concise and compact speeches.

One of the most famous of all American speeches is Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. It is also one of the shortest speeches on record yet, its sentiments, ideas, and propositions would fill volumes in the hands of other speakers.

In honor of Lincoln’s birthday, I’ve reprinted the entire speech below.

Fourscore 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 battlefield 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 cannot dedicate…we cannot consecrate…we cannot 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.
Abraham Lincoln
Nov. 19, 1863

The following clip is a tribute to President Lincoln (Music by Aaron Copland; narrated by Henry Fonda):