Commentary: Lincoln's legacy

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, July 10, 2009
One of the glass cases at the Lincoln exhibit contains the contents of the 16th president’s pockets the night he was assassinated. A five dollar confederate bill, a watch fob, a pocket knife, a button, and two pair of spectacles. One pair has a broken hinge that the president had repaired himself using a piece of twine. I loved that last detail. It speaks volumes about the humbleness of this greatest of all presidents, the one who saved the union and abolished slavery.
A few blocks from the museum, California's leaders struggle with the state's fiscal crisis. It might be helpful if they all took time out to peer into that case, to look at the playbill from Ford's theater above it, the one stained with Lincoln's blood. It puts today's seemingly insurmountable troubles into perspective. The crisis Lincoln faced makes the one now confronting California seem puny.
In the midst of his crisis, Lincoln managed to push through federal authorization for the transcontinental railroad. He signed the Homestead Act, and the law that created land grant colleges. All this, while serving as commander in chief during the Civil War, a slaughter unmatched in this country before or since, a challenge to the very survival of the nation.
Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages. The Lincoln exhibit will be on display at the California Museum in Sacramento through August 22nd.