I memorized the Gettysburg Address as a fifth grader (me and a million other kids!) In Kentucky we were all glad to take part in the exercise, and especially with a sense of pride planted there by our parents and our teachers in having shared a birthplace with the great American president. I can still remember the beginning and the end-lilting with Biblical phraseology and historical significance-but the middle of the famous speech is a bit foggy after so many years.
I considered Abraham Lincoln a serious statesman then. But I discovered a whole new facet to his public speaking image as I dug deeper: Entertainer of the masses and impresario extraordinaire came to fit more appropriately. Sounds surprisingly like Donald Trump at one of his rallies. Could it be that genuine passion for the subject and the people link these two original showmen?
Without a doubt Lincoln and Trump proved masters of the political stage. Each built a unique crowd-pleasing public image and donned a style of speaking that clearly and simply roused crowds of eager fans. A head-on, in-your-face kind of boldness guided these oh-so-similar, but oh-so-provocative virtuosos of the American soap box.
I realize that "Fourscore and seven years ago..." and "What the hell do you have to lose?" have nothing in common, but the sincerity of the message and its music to the ears of the beholders always (dare I say it) trumps eloquence.
Undertaking to read everything about Abraham Lincoln may be an impossible task. Thousands upon thousands of volumes exist about our sixteenth president and the times in which he lived. Is there anything we don't know about him? Apparently yes. Books continue to be published even today revealing new perspectives and unique nuances about this American icon! One unique gem I unearthed from his past was his own short term of military service.
As commander in chief Lincoln wielded great power over soldiers and sailors-but an enlisted man himself? Yes, and I found it to be a humorous episode, not intrinsically (though Abe himself used the brief stint as comic relief in some of his own speeches) but in connection to Donald Trump. No, the Donald never served in the military-bone spurs, super-high draft number, or some such-but I discovered a most unusual likeness.
Lincoln, while in his early twenties, joined other local young men in volunteering for the Illinois state militia in a regional skirmish with natives later called the Black Hawk War. He related the never-ending marching through marshes, and how they never, not once, even tussled with the enemy. But he had many bloody struggles with the mosquitoes, he would joke. What stuck with him most was the great satisfaction he felt in being voted captain by his peers-a success he found profoundly satisfying.
Donald Trump was also elected captain by his peers-on his high school baseball team. I'm pretty sure they never saw combat either. That Trump valued the experience is not known but depending on the intensity of the competition and how aggressively Donald slid into home or ducked pitchers' wild balls, his stint as captain may have drawn more blood than Lincoln's mosquitoes.
One was a skinny, dark-headed figure with a sallow tan and an Ichabod Crane profile, and the other has a more robust, chunky silhouette with a kind of orangish-blonde hue. If compared side by side and taken at face value the contrast, to say the least, would be stark. But similarities accumulated as I rummaged through histories.
Abraham Lincoln and Donald Trump were both tall (about 6' 4"), and fairly athletic. They both played baseball (called "town ball" in Abe's day.) Neither smoked nor drank. And I was a little surprised to learn that neither cared for gourmet food, (especially the Donald--what billionaire wouldn't want to live high on the hog?) preferring instead simple meals and "fast food" even during their own administrations. For Trump it was burgers and diet soda; Lincoln more likely chose cornbread or a hard-boiled egg or a slice of cheese.
Their common approachability proven by the incredible access they gave to others in one way or another throughout their lives, and their simple use of language-often verging on the crude and juvenile-demonstrated to me that Lincoln and Trump possessed a very human side. Both sported a more cringeworthy facet (even as president) marked by some graceless, crass and downright nasty episodes (i.e. Trump's now infamous "hot mic" on the Hollywood Access tapes, and Lincoln's love of scatological humor.)
Either one could keep a crowd (the butt of the jokes excepted) "rolling in the aisles" and "hysterical with laughter." But offset that with an empathy and heart for the everyday Joe (or Jane) that rivals the most devoted humanitarian, and you have two uncommonly common leaders.
Trump seemed a magnet for blue-collar entertainment! Redneck might be a good description. (Being one myself, the term still seems a bit derogatory.) In February 2020, he made a re-election campaign stop in Daytona, Florida, for the Daytona 500. He even took a lap around the track in his presidential limo, known as "The Beast." He made it work: God and country, flag-waving, gun-loving, hard-working, weekend-warrior, beer-drinking, backyard BBQ crowds. And Lincoln? Kentucky born and farm-raised--redneck is not a stretch. He made it work, too.
Facebook Won't Let A Latter-day Saint Publisher Advertise Their New Book. What's Going On?
Cedar Fort Publishing & Media has been around for 35 years this year. They've published thousands of books varying in genre, including: LDS Non-Fiction, Children's, Young Adult, Fantasy, Health, etc. They're a small publisher dedicated to putting out amazing books written by amazing authors.
With that being said, there is one book that is being silenced: Born to Fight: Lincoln and Trump by Gretchen Wollert, which was just released February 2021. The books synopsis states:
Abraham Lincoln and Donald Trump are two of a kind despite terms in office separated by 150-plus years. Both encountered a biased press and deeply divisive political environments after being elected with less than 50 percent of the popular vote. Each was viewed as an ill-equipped outlier and accompanied to office by first ladies ostracized by Washington's elite. Lincoln was known by those closest to him for his supreme self-confidence, inexhaustible ambition, mean streak, braggadocio, arrogance, vanity, and knack for thriving amid conflict. Ditto Trump. Born to Fight shows that Trump is better understood through the many parallels linking him to Lincoln.
Obviously this book will be a controversial book and Cedar Fort knew this when they decided to publish it. But in their 35 years of experience, they've learned not every book is for everyone, but there SHOULD be a book for anyone. So what is going on right now?
Cedar Fort Publishing relies heavily on Facebook marketing to spread awareness on the books that they publish. As they've tried to run advertisements and publish content about the book, Born to Fight, they have seen a pushback from Facebook on getting their content out. Not only have their ads been shut off and denied, but when they have asked for a review of the content, Facebook constantly denies them. This book isn't made to make people vote for Donald Trump, how could it? The man is not in office anymore. This book is about comparing two American president's and the lives they lived. But that doesn't matter does it. At the end of the day, the book is about Donald Trump, and therefore should be hidden away from the internet.
The topic of censorship and conservatives is currently on the rise, and with the announcement of Conservative pundit Steven Crowder suing Facebook for "what he believes are unfair and secretive policies," you can see how everything is adding up. Mark Zuckerberg also recently said that Facebook would no longer recommend political groups to its users, describing the move as "a continuation of work we've been doing for a while to turn down the temperature and discourage divisive conversations."
So what can be done? Right now Cedar Fort Publishing is trying to advertise their new book Born to Fight: Lincoln and Trump, and can use your help to push back. Whether you want to share this post to your social media, or if you want to purchase the book, either would be great. Cedar Fort Publishing appreciates all the love and support that many of happy customers have given them throughout the years and promise to make sure to continue to publish books people enjoy.
We appreciate all the support you give us.
Though Lincoln had only one marriage-to the illustrious Mary Todd-a quick biographical foray into his earlier years revealed not one but two failed love affairs prior to finding his first lady. Ditto Donald Trump. Only his were two failed marriages leading up to his final nuptials with current first lady Melania.
Interestingly both White House women experienced the vitriol from not only the partisan elites of Washington DC, but also a crazy media that mimicked the tabloid press of the day, concocted drivel and all. Mary and Melania were often targeted by a hateful press for their fashion sense, or rather their fashion offense toward a press corps that just couldn't accept them for who they were.
Easily apparent in their backstories Mary Todd, Ivana (the first wife and mother of Trump's first three children,) as well as Melania were/are capable mothers and strong, independent women in their own rights. And since fatherhood tended to take second fiddle to climbing their proverbial ladders, Lincoln and Trump were more than happy to leave the child-rearing and homemaking to the moms while they went off to bring home the bacon (or in Trump's case, the whole hog!)
Neither man showed any hesitation in beginning a family right away (Robert Todd Lincoln was born only three days short of nine months after the wedding, and Donald, Jr. was born a whopping six days short of nine months later). Abe and Mary had four sons, though two died early in childhood (little Eddie, when he was three, and Willie at age twelve.) Donald Trump's three sons and two daughters arrived over the course of four decades and three marriages.
Differences in familial circumstances aside, Lincoln and Trump remained devoted to their children and first ladies throughout their lives despite workaholic natures and constant distractions: Lincoln until he was 56 years old when he was struck down by an assassin one month into his second term, and Trump well past 70.
What exactly does it mean to be a self-made man? Horatio Alger defined the idea in his19th century novels as pretty much up-from-nothing. His parade of poor, humble characters who rose from the bottom rung of the ladder to become successful and comfortable in life portrayed true rags-to-riches tales. Titles like Ragged Dick, Fame and Fortune, and Bound to Rise were devoured by young adults craving the hopeful storylines and happy endings.
Abe Lincoln could definitely have played the part of one of Horatio's boys. (He even gave it a title: Annals of the Poor.) But Donald Trump? How absurd is it to ponder a millionaire's son rising up the ladder-wasn't he already at the top? Maybe that's the question: Must one rise from nothing? I think the beginning level of poverty or lack thereof may be less significant than how far one rises above that first step.
Perhaps "self-invented" or "self-determined" are better labels for climbers who rise above initial circumstances by their own stubborn will. Lincoln told young men that "will" was the most important quality for success. Trump wrote a book on it titled Never Give Up. And, let's be honest, Alger strategically placed wealthy benefactors along the trail of his poor boys. I wondered, "Does it take a village, after all?"
Unearthing those influential "helpers" perched on the Lincoln and Trump ladders revealed some things: Success doesn't happen by chance, and rarely entirely on one's own. Dogged determination and a village of supporters are certainly steps along the way. But what about energy and ambition, and just plain good fortune? (In Trump's case-really big fortune!) In truth, many ingredients have to converge for one human being to make something of himself or herself.
After all my digging into Lincoln's and Trump's histories, the metaphor of a man climbing a ladder just didn't seem to fit anymore. A ship at sea was more like it. And these two men had ones well-fitted and with expert crews. When clouds formed on the horizon and roiling seas tossed them about (waves that would have swamped anyone else's boat) these elements aroused in each man the right stuff to navigate the perfect storm.
I never knew how hated Abraham Lincoln was until I stood him next to Donald Trump. I must have received the sanitized and softened historical accounts in all of my schooling. Perhaps because Lincoln was assassinated, his more ignominious realities fell to the wayside.
It just may be a toss-up which one is the most slandered and despised president in our history. I discovered that the mountain of hate mail Lincoln received during his administration he burned before it could accumulate. He was called every name in the 1860's book and threatened with hanging, shooting, burning and caning-and hung and burned in effigy in more than one southern town square.
I'm not going out on much of a limb in awarding Kathy Griffin's bloody, severed head of Trump top-billing for presidential bashing. And ricin-laced letters delivered to the White House certainly moved the level of malicious intent up a notch.
The rising hostilities apparent in the months leading up to both re-elections generated calls for the death of the president. In October 2020 (after Donald Trump contracted the COVID-19 virus) a former Hillary Clinton spokeswoman just couldn't help herself when she tweeted: "...I hope he *dies!*" And in August of 1864 the La Crosse(Wisconsin)Democrat printed an editorial calling for "...some bold hand [to] pierce [Lincoln's] heart with dagger point for the public good!" The thought of four more years in both cases was just too much for the opposition party to consider!
In a divided America with little room left for compromise the political game has morphed into something less benign than just political mudslinging. The signs of the times mark an ever-widening gap. Lincoln saw it coming when he spoke of "A house divided against itself..." In 1860 the two sides declared all out war. And in 2020 it's not just tempers flaring on the streets of American cities. Hate is a uniquely human trait that tends to feed on itself and just may run rampant unless beaten back by what Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature."
He was tough and tall in a gangly, awkward sort of way. Years of axe-wielding and farming had made him strong. And tales of his bounding into wrestling matches and emerging victorious were brought to life in Henry Fonda's starring portrayal in the 1939 film Young Mr. Lincoln.
As a teacher, I taught about Abraham Lincoln as a rough and ready pioneer on the still somewhat wild Illinois frontier, and who grew up to be the greatest US president.
Of course, I also knew Lincoln as the commander-in-chief tasked with overseeing the Union side in the War Between the States. That said, I remained quite ignorant of the extent of his early battles, physical and otherwise. It wasn't until much later in my life that I came to realize the horrific toll of the Civil War and Lincoln's part in it.
Abraham Lincoln pushed-undaunted and uncompromising-toward an all-or-none conclusion: No peace without victory, and no victory without a vanquished enemy! His staunch position against compromise (lack of working across the aisle) deepened the scars and sharpened the pain from which the countryside and her citizens were left reeling. Talk about a fighter!
Then there's Donald Trump. From my youth I knew what had been plastered in the media about his "larger-than-life" persona, mostly as a New York City-based developer with grandiose plans linked to gorgeous high-rises and spectacular venues. My view of him, however, was more along the lines of "What outrageous fight is he taking on now?" He seemed to have no qualms about saying whatever was in his head about anyone or anything, and at any time.
His NBC TV reality show, The Apprentice, must have been the perfect outlet for his over-the-top personality-an aggressive boss in the face of conflict with his just plain harsh "You're fired!"
During the 2016 presidential campaign, I and everyone else watched Trump take down "CNN" in a doctored video from his WWE days. The late eighties brought Mike Tyson and, with him, Donald Trump in the form of big promotion, hype, and a lot of controversy. It was in 1988 that Tyson hired Trump to be his chief strategist and adviser, so Trump early in his career had close ties to the fight industry. Some of it probably rubbed off on him.
I just assumed Abraham Lincoln was a Christian. Brilliant-minded, born and raised in the Bible Belt, and, as reasonable as he was proven to be (where being a churchgoer, to me, was the most reasonable thing in the world,) I took it for granted that a man so committed to truth and unity was in a church pew every Sunday. After all, he was called "Honest Abe," and his most famous speeches flowed with the language of religion and biblical phrases: "Fourscore and seven . . . ," and "The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
I knew nothing of a turbulent, questioning youth or a rebellious streak in his early years. In fact, if he had offered his testimony at a camp-meeting revival, I was sure it would have stolen the spotlight as the most humble, sincere declaration of Christian faith of any believer there. But I'd have been wrong.
On the other hand, if you had suggested that Donald Trump believed in any power higher than himself, I would have dismissed it as inconceivable. Through the eighties it seemed every other tabloid front-page story about Trump proclaimed yet another outlandish worldly episode in the ongoing saga of his self-serving, lavish, and dissipated lifestyle. How could a person portrayed in the media as such a "bad boy" be a person of faith?
I only knew Donald Trump from what I saw and heard in the news, and what was in the news (until 2015) was never about his "Christian character" or any kind of "redemptive nature." I judged these two men solely by what was apparent on the surface. As I dove into the reality of both and examined the truth beyond the media-hype, I realized a depth of faith not readily seen by "outsiders" like me.
What was the impetus for this pact of 56 Americans in 1776: "...we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."
Seems a bit drastic, don't you think? After all, isn't our physical well-being everything? Die for something? Risk livelihoods? Peace at all costs! And what on earth is "sacred honor?" If you don't know, you have experienced one of the saddest losses in life-an appreciation and understanding of what it means to be free.
Abraham Lincoln's favorite historical document (the object of "Fourscore and Seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation...") was the Declaration of Independence. That was the jumping off point for America-the nation "conceived in Liberty and dedicated to a proposition that all...are created equal."
His fight against those powers that would destroy such a nation ended in changing that proposition into reality by setting free all Americans and maintaining a Union tested to the utmost.
The patriots of 1776 believed that liberty-the right to participate in their own destiny via the "consent of the governed"-was worth such a pledge. Why?
In their own words, this is why:
"that [all] are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men,
deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it."
Abolish-now that's a hard word; it doesn't sound very peaceful. My thoughts of 1776 don't include much in the way of peace, nor do I think of peace when I ponder what lay ahead of the year 1861.
This is the reason Lincoln gave for fighting for an America in which freedom reigned supreme: "...that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."
As I recall, Abraham Lincoln perpetrated the most devastating violence on half the nation America has ever seen!
Will we learn from history? Can it happen peacefully or will it have to be fought for? Will we claim this history as reason enough to make such a pledge ourselves?
Will a nation begun with a shot heard round the world end with a whimper? Is it even possible today to battle such overwhelming power? I want to believe that it is...
And deep down I do!
I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and from a young age I knew something of Abraham Lincoln's humble beginnings. He was born in a log cabin in what today is Larue County, about an hour south of where I grew up. From Louisville, you take Interstate 65 south and go several miles past Elizabethtown before getting off the interstate. Then you take Highway 61 for a bit before it converges with 31E south. Boom, you're there-Honest Abe's birthplace.
Lincoln's "rags to riches" story was meant to be inspirational and motivational for us budding American dreamers. Other than that, all I ever really knew about his ancestry all those years before starting work on this book was that he was born in a cabin, his dad was a farmer, and that Abe, most historians tell us, embodied such character virtues as goodness, kindness, honesty, industry, and obedience. Those, our teachers told us, were commendable aspirations for us all.
Before Donald Trump announced his candidacy for U.S. president, I knew even less about his childhood, his upbringing, and his family. As he emerged onto the Republican primary stage, starting in 2015 after announcing his candidacy, my only impressions of his youth were assumptions; four of them-that he was rich, he was born rich, and he grew up rich, and, according to most accounts, he was very rich. By his own account-he was very, very rich.
With such a clear contrast in beginnings, in areas such as geography and wealth (or lack of it), I saw no apparent resemblance between the two men. Then again, up until then, I had not been looking. I had no reason to. But once I started foraging through all the murky misconceptions and preconceived notions about both, I discovered a reservoir of startling similarities.
Sign up for my mailing list to receive information on the release and purchase of Born to Fight: Lincoln and Trump!
1. It's in the Genes: One came from upscale New York, the other from rural Kentucky-worlds apart, but out of those disparate backgrounds came two presidents who were, upon closer inspection, influenced by surprisingly similar familial forces. Consider that character and qualities know no economic boundaries, then prepare to grasp the unexpected. Through ancestral beginnings, the influence of parents, and circumstances in early childhood, this unlikely comparison exposes how these two seemingly opposite precocious and often obstinate boys who believed they were special emerged equally prepared for a future of popularity and ultimate success.
2. Man of Faith: Contemporaries and even some friends believed Trump and Lincoln to be nonreligious. The reality behind the scenes and below the surface reveals otherwise. Worldly appearances belie a genuine belief in God manifested by deeds more than words. Associations with and concern for religious people and organizations confirm a faith in a Higher Power. Despite early heresies, both presidents developed a sincere belief in Providence and a dependence on a Divine Hand guiding the course of the nation. That God used these flawed men as agents of great change in America might be more a revelation of His sense of humor than anything else.
3. Common Man: Both were tall and athletic, and neither smoked nor drank. Neither cared much for gourmet food, instead preferring simple meals and "fast food." But these are insignificant similarities. That each maintained an ever-present connection to the ordinary people throughout life confirms them as uncommonly common. Approachability, simple use of language, and a few more base attributes that were crude and even juvenile at times provide evidence of a real human side to their characters. They also sport a more cringeworthy facet marked by graceless, crass, and downright nasty episodes. But don't think that alone defines either of these leaders; they both exhibit an empathy and heart for the common people that can rival the most devoted humanitarian. Both Lincoln and Trump possessed wit and humor honed over decades of use. They consistently could keep a crowd (the butt of the jokes excepted!) "rolling in the aisles" and "hysterical with laughter."
4. Family Man: That both presidents' first ladies experienced animosity at the hands of partisan elites and a hateful, biased press is more a sign of the times than a reflection of the women themselves. But Lincoln and Trump, despite occasional internal turmoil, remained devoted to their families throughout their lives. Discover that both first ladies were confident, competitive, and capable women. Lincoln's two failed love affairs and Trump's two failed marriages aside, both proved, for the most part. attentive fathers and shared surprisingly similar characteristics as husbands.
5. Born to Fight: Two centuries, two presidents, a divided nation, and high stakes. Ambition and ego drive great leaders alike. Supreme self-assurance and a fierce penchant for battle fuel the impetus to punch and dodge and even hit below the belt. Facing conflict fearlessly, a seasoned fighter hits his mark through ridicule, merciless aggression, and a rampant humor often packing a punch. Engineering a grand destiny which made a name dominate headlines for decades proved a hard-fought prize. But that's just Lincoln. Impetuous physical bouts metamorphosed into ideological confrontations tempered by experience. And then there's Trump. Myth is knocked flat by this honest comparison of two born fighters ideally trained to combat the roughest, toughest political battles of the century, which don't necessarily leave the last man standing.
6. Keeping It Real!: With unique candor and a willingness to tell it like it is, consequences be damned, Lincoln and Trump both earned the trust of the American people for being authentic and sincere. "Honest Abe" embodied a transparency and commitment to his word that he deemed the "chief gem" of his character. "The Donald," a blustery self-promoter, spoke his mind unfiltered-a transparency refreshingly honest to many in a political world rife with misspeak and deception. Freedom from political correctness, consistency in exposing hypocrisy, and a fearlessness for open debate describes both men. And a devotion to the mantra "a promise made must be kept" endeared them to the masses in a climate of disappointment, conflict, and disinformation. Discover also tendencies in both leaders to deflect in order to avoid uncomfortable and unnecessary duplicity.
7. Self-Made Man: These two presidents present such clashing visual images that common beginnings seem impossible. But the American dream is no respecter of origins, and the combination of ambition, will to succeed, and an incredible work ethic converge to propel two men toward the pinnacle of success. Both were characterized by a personal confidence unaffected by the opinions of others. And initiative dominated their self-determined rise. Eager helping hands from spotlight-seeking acquaintances or truly devoted supporters aided these tireless climbers through lifetimes of surpassing expectations. Resilience in the face of failure and originality among a sea of conventional humanity defines these American dreamers as two of a kind.
8. Master of Communication: Style, tone, diction, and voice are insignificant details for two speakers who mastered and entertained the enormous crowds of the day. The authentic ideas and genuine passion for the subject was inextricably linked to these original showmen of the political stage. Each cultivated early a unique crowd-pleasing public image. And with clarity, simplicity, credibility, and their own brand of wit they moved audiences deftly and without apology toward their cause. Commanding the technology of the time enhanced the messengers' bold confidence in the varied arenas and information avenues of the day. Though "Four score and seven years ago" bears little resemblance to "What the hell do you have to lose?" the sincerity of the message and its music to the ears of the beholders always trumps eloquence.
9. Born to Lead: Even as youth, Lincoln and Trump were natural leaders whose friends gravitated toward their special charisma and magnetism. Strong, decisive personalities learned self-discipline prior to adulthood-in very different ways. Their pragmatic realism in no way dampened a truly visionary mentality. Years of public interaction and private trial honed abilities to inspire, convince, influence, and motivate people, and the ease with which each wielded power attests to a lifetime of experience. A sincere desire to better the world around them, and a cool, calm response to pressure, proved invaluable for great leadership in a turbulent America.
10. Signs of the Times: A divided American people manifests itself in the growing chasm between two irreconcilable worldviews. Signs of the times reveal uncanny similarities in the political and social climate of a nation in turmoil. Double-speak and dirty tricks by political opponents, never-ending investigations, and constant criticism from a biased press dominate the landscape. Those are upstaged by the intolerance and hypocrisy of an often unidentifiable opposition lurking in the bottomless depths of a deep state. The plantation, though separated by a century of American progress, yet startlingly identical in nature and unbelievably apparent during both administrations, is exposed as the antithesis of our American Experiment.
After graduating high school, I went off to college, taking with me the tenets of my upbringing: work ethic, responsibility, patriotism, charity . . . and freedom. I loved learning especially about America's founding fathers (and mothers) and the great eras of yesteryear, which fed my independent spirit and proud nature. "We hold these truths," "lives and fortunes," "conceived in liberty," "Ask not what your country can do for you..." and "land of the free and home of the brave." I became and remain a very passionate and patriotic student of American history.
Anxious to realize my American dream, I drifted away from the home of my youth and followed Greeley's adventurous mandate of the past and went West. Doggedly persevering through all the ups and downs of this land of opportunity, my opportunity came with a husband and a small farm and ranch that aided the raising of four daughters on lots of chores, wide-open spaces, the Golden Rule, trust in God, and commitments to study hard and treasure freedom. I supplemented an agricultural income with teaching, coaching, and myriad other money-making ventures. My girls learned firsthand the courage and tireless effort required for their own American dream.
While all this was going on, America was taking on a character different than the one I embraced when embarking on my journey westward. She slowly but surely acquired a split-personality-promising freedom one day and taking it back the next. We experienced a school system that disregarded American history in subtle but concerning regularity. "Government of the people, by the people, and for the people," must have been working for some other people. The most helpless and dependent in our nation didn't have a voice. We watched the EPA, the IRS and the FBI attack ordinary folks. We long-ago bid farewell to freedom of religion in public places. Freedom of association was a courtroom away from extinction. Other rights, big and small, were becoming inconvenient to the powers that be. Our cherished America was looking haggard and mollifying, and it was sinking fast into mediocrity.
To me Abraham Lincoln was America's greatest president. And I thought I knew a lot about him, after all, I taught schoolchildren for years what a wonderful example of leadership he showed in a very divisive time in our historical past. He was the savior of a nation in turmoil. The epitome of honesty and humility and an icon of American greatness! Lincoln was the powerful and serious statesman embodied in his memorial statue in Washington DC, and the masterfully wise and eloquent communicator in the Gettysburg Address. Indeed, he was these things, but he was so much more. I realized that I didn't know Abraham Lincoln after all-not really!
My journey of discovery began in 2016 when a field of talented political stars and presidential wannabes fell like dominoes in the wake of Donald Trump. He was a fighter and seemed to champion the people. He beat the odds (and the polls) and became a brand-new president who wasn't supposed to win. More than half the country voted against him of which half of them truly hated him! Many in his own party considered him an ill-equipped outlier. These attitudes sprang from a country divided ideologically amidst differences many deemed irreconcilable. Needless to say, a large part of America didn't seem to accept the election and thus began a war of sorts-subversive, constant, and not at all civil. If only they could have seceded. But the nineteenth century was so different than the twenty-first. Or was it? 2016 was in fact very much like 1860, and the new guy now is so startlingly similar to the new guy then. The new president was very tall (6'4, give or take an inch,) whose youngest son was ten years old, accompanied by a first lady ostracized by Washington elites and a hostile, biased press. This scenario seemed familiar. Initially, I dismissed the absurdity: Donald Trump like Abraham Lincoln? After four years, forty-six books, endless hours of social media videos and articles, archived interviews, immeasurable news stories and tweets, I concluded and went on to prove the most improbable thing in the world: Trump and Lincoln are more alike than different. And not just in superficial, insignificant ways such as height or political party, but deep down in character traits such as ambition, faith, ego, humor, tenacity, and the propensity for fighting. This list grew longer and longer as I uncovered more unlikely but true similarities hidden by a historical record sometimes reluctant to fully humanize a martyred president.
Revealing Abraham Lincoln's lesser (and lesser known) qualities was at times uncomfortable. But he remains my favorite president for whom I have greater respect now than ever-he became real. And Donald Trump--he became my second favorite president as I discovered a wealth of lesser-known qualities hidden beneath his well-cultivated façade.
As I reveal to you the man behind the myth, or, rather, the men behind the myths, the experience may be at times uneasy, awkward, and even startling. But the truth promises to betray misconceptions through enlightening if not refreshing discoveries behind these deceptively kindred and very real presidents.