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HOW LINCOLN OVERCAME ADVERSITY
While February is the shortest month of the year, it’s packed with historical significance relating to American determination and perseverance. While many of us are celebrating Valentine’s Day, Presidents Day, or Black History Month, there’s one February date of consequence that tends to be overlooked. Perhaps no other president is more idealized than Lincoln, who was born on Feb. 12, 1809. After abolishing slavery, seeing the country through the deadliest war in U.S. history, and redefining political values, he has become an American hero and has his own monument in Washington. But in spite of his intelligence and leadership capabilities, it was perhaps his failures that set him on the path to greatness. In 1816, Lincoln’s family was forced to leave their home, and two years later, before his 10th birthday, his mother died. In 1828, his sister died while giving birth to her stillborn son. With no formal education, Lincoln struck out on his own at the age of 21 and started his own business. In 1831, that business failed and he sold his shares to move into politics. In 1832, he ran for the state legislature. Christian H. McIntire’s Library of Congress documentation of Lincoln’s failures states he “was badly swamped.” In 1833, he went bankrupt. In 1835, his fiancé tragically died. By 1836, life had dealt Lincoln a hard hand, and he had a nervous breakdown.
While practicing in Springfield, Lincoln watched his 4-year-old son die of tuberculosis in 1850. With more experience under his belt and a successful firm, he went back to his passion and began pursuing politics again. In 1854, he ran for the Senate and lost. In 1856, he sought a seat as the vice president and was defeated. After a long political career marred by failure, Lincoln won the presidential election in 1860. His persistence paid off, and his failures made him a better leader, but his struggles did not cease. Lincoln lost another son in 1862, and the effect on him was crippling. Bouncing back from yet another setback, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and won re-election in 1864. His assassination in 1865 was a tragic end to a life filled with adversity, but it did not change the status of Lincoln’s effect on the masses. Amid a world of defeat, an ordinary man became an icon through his willingness to persevere. Life will consistently deal us pain, but it’s how we overcome it that defines who we are. When you’ve had to scratch and claw to achieve success, you become resilient and empathetic, which makes your success even sweeter. If at any time you fail this month, channel Lincoln’s strength and know you will overcome.
“AMID A WORLD OF DEFEAT, AN ORDINARY MAN BECAME AN ICON THROUGH HIS WILLINGNESS TO PERSEVERE.”
After putting his life back together, Lincoln continued to pursue politics. He tried for two different positions in 1838 and 1840 but got neither. In 1843, he ran for Congress and lost. After he got in three years later, he ran for re-election and lost in 1848. Reeling from that defeat, Lincoln expected to be appointed Commissioner of the General Land Office, but that was given to his rival. After years of rejection, Lincoln stepped out of politics to focus on law.
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