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Lincoln losing a school, but not a statue

If Abraham Lincoln were around for his 205th birthday, he would learn that Dixon plans to close the school that bears his name. But he would also see that the community’s imagination is still inspired by a statue of him as a young reader.

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT

Two hundred five years after President Abraham Lincoln was born on Feb. 12, 1809, his newsworthiness has not diminished in the Land of Lincoln.

If anything, the continuing 150th anniversary of the Civil War (2011-2015) keeps Lincoln in the minds of many denizens of the 21st century.

Lincoln was a rail-splitting Illinois lawyer whose election in 1860 sparked a Civil War with slave-holding states. He won that conflict, preserved the Union, freed the slaves, and in the process offered many lessons on life and leadership before his untimely death.

Students at Dixon’s Lincoln School have long been witnesses to one of Lincoln’s lessons.

Lincoln, even as a youth in frontier Kentucky and Indiana, understood the value of education.

A statue of “Lincoln at Seven,” commissioned by Ruth Walgreen Stephan, was donated in 1947 to Lincoln School.

Lincoln is depicted as a barefoot boy with ragged hair and buckskin clothes, lying on the floor reading a book.

If, for the past 67 years, students have been inspired to read like Lincoln, the statue has served a noble purpose.

In less than 4 months, Lincoln School will close, as approved in December by the Dixon School Board to save money.

What will happen to the Lincoln statue?

Last month, a letter writer, Harriet Ann Badger, proposed that the statue be moved to the Walgreen room at the Northwest Territory Historic Center.

Dixon’s school superintendent, Michael Juenger, has said that he favors the statue staying within the school district. Perhaps it could be moved to Washington Elementary School. The decision, Juenger said, is up to the school board.

Whatever happens, the statue should be displayed in a location where it can continue to be a source of inspiration.

Another lesson in life can be gleaned from the 150-year-old Gazette item about Lincoln’s daily schedule that appeared Monday in “Editorials from Yesteryear.”

On most weekdays, Lincoln scheduled time to greet visitors in his White House office, where he listened to their concerns.

“Three or four hours do they pour in, in rapid succession, nine out of ten asking offices, and patiently does the president listen to their applications,” the Gazette reported on Feb. 6, 1864.

Can you imagine the president of the United States, today, meeting with the public daily for 3 or 4 hours?

History tells us that some of Lincoln’s friends urged him to give up the practice, but he insisted on meeting the public to stay in touch with their concerns. Lincoln called those sessions his “public opinion baths.”

A leader who loses touch with the people will lessen his capacity to serve their needs. If Lincoln could stay in touch with the common man and woman, today’s leaders certainly should, too.

Happy birthday, Abe!

 

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