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The Declaration Of Independence

(category: American-History, Word count: 734)
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If you had to think of one document other than the Bible that people can most easily quote almost without thinking about it, that one document would be the Declaration of Independence. The comparison to the Bible is apt. Not that the Declaration of Independence is holy in a religious sense of the word. But it has a place of reverence in the hearts of the American people and in the history of the founding of this great nation.

While not the first words of the Declaration of Independence, these stirring words have that kind of prophetic power that anyone who hears them in immediately inspired by the beauty, the poetry and the deep truths that were so beautifully expressed in that historic document.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This one statement from that famous declaration so beautifully demonstrates some core principles that show why this document has such a deep impact on the American mind and heart. The statement that the truths in this document were indeed truths is a profound statement in its own right. The Declaration of Independence does that suggest that what is being declared in those pages are theories, possibilities, even political ideology. These are truths which puts them on the same value as statements of values as often taught in a religious setting. Truths are eternal values and values that are not changed by circumstances, by whomever or whatever is handling the government of the land or by the whim of lawmakers. These truths exist above those temporal earthly ideas and live on that plain of the eternal.

"Self evident" is a powerful phrase and it reflects on the founder's belief in what was called natural law. Natural law is the belief system that there are laws that are part of our natural state of existence and that they cannot be taken away (inalienable). These laws are our rights as creations of the almighty and any government system must recognize these laws because they are above government. It is a basic belief system of the American system that ALL people are entitled to these rights and that they cannot be taken away.

The mention of a creator in the declaration of independence is very important because there are those who would maintain that the separation of church and state tells us that the government is at heart a secular institution. Clearly the founders did not lay the foundation of our country on that groundwork. They saw the inheritance we as Americans have in our rights and freedoms to be part of our legacy from God and as such, above the government and something the government must back off and leave alone as well as prettiest and defend.

The Declaration of Independence is truly an amazing document especially when you consider the "primitive" state of the nation when it was written by Thomas Jefferson and signed on July 2, 1776 to become the backbone of our American system of government. It became an often referenced and quoted document, even becoming a part of President Lincoln's famous inaugural speech when he said with such deep conviction...

Four score 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."

Because these words are such a deep part of our American heritage, American history and the American spirit, they are often a crucial center part of any study of history in the schools in this country. That is why school children in every state are so familiar with these words.

But it would do us all well to take some time once a year or so and take our copy of the Declaration of Independence and read it either as a private moment of reflection nor with our families. What a wonderful fourth of July tradition that would make. Then as you watch the fireworks celebrating the birth of the country and its independence, you will have those words fresh in your heart to remind you that it was our creator that gave us our freedoms and independence and nobody has the right to ever take them away.

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The 22nd Amendment

(category: American-History, Word count: 687)
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On February 27th, 1951, the 22nd amendment was ratified which made permanent a tradition that has profound influence on the philosophy of government in the United States of America. This amendment may not be the most well known amendment but its place in the fabric of American history cannot be overstated. That is because the 22nd Amendment mandated that...

No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once.

The limitation of service as President of the United States to two terms was one that up until the 22nd amendment was more a matter of custom than law. It began when George Washington refused to run for a third term. But by making the limitation of power in the presidency in the 22nd amendment, the American people made a bold statement about how their government would be run.

One of the most unique aspects to how the United States of America organized its government was the concept of citizen rulers. This concept was born in the very halls and pubs where the founding fathers gathered to discuss this new country that was just getting started. By reducing the idea of a "career politician", especially at the presidential level, the 22nd amendment dealt a deadly blow to the concept that America would ever be ruled by a king or a "president for life."

This was clearly a reaction by America to the abuses that had witnessed by the pilgrims and immigrants that make up this great country in their homelands. They reacted strongly and negatively to the deification of kings and the virtually unlimited powers that too many times systems of royalty tended to give to their leadership. This was one of the central themes that caused so many to flee Europe, Central Asia and other parts of the world to seek a land where it was the people who were the center of the governments will, not the arbitrary ideas of a king who was cut off from the real needs of the people he served.

The way America set up its presidency was in every way an attempt to "fix" the flaws and abuses of the European models and refocus the center of power in government on the electorate rather than on the elected. Another aspect of the American federal system that was put in place deliberately to limit the ability of those in power to abuse that power is the system of checks and balances. This system assures that none of the branches of government, The Congress, the Presidency or the Supreme Court could dominate the other or take complete power and rule without challenge. By insuring that all in power had to answer to the opposing party and be prepared to answer to the American people for what they did and even said, this completely eliminated that chances that one part of the government would stage a "coup" over the other.

Accountability is a word that is not very exciting but it is the concept that has kept the American system of government healthy and in service to its people rather than putting them in service for over 200 years.

In addition to these several highly innovative methods the founding fathers gave to this young country to eliminate the abuses of past governmental systems, they also put a system in place that assured the orderly transition of power. The system of elections every two years stopped two evils, the occurrence of a politician who served for life without accountability and a system wherein the only way to loose your job in government was by violent overthrow. As a result the American system, albeit contentious and argumentative, has been and continues to be one of the most peaceful and orderly systems of federal administration in the world and indeed in the history of the world.

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Benjamin Franklin

(category: American-History, Word count: 612)
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Sometimes when a country is just getting organized, its citizens are considered to be uneducated, out of touch or primitive. But exactly opposite was the truth when the great American experiment began to take shape. The world did not see America as provincial or simple and that is due to a large part to the work of the man many that many have called "The First American". That man was Benjamin Franklin.

Benjamin Franklin stands out amongst those we would call "The Founding Fathers" because he was neither a military man nor a politician. He was one of the few we think of a one of our nation's fathers that never served as president. But that does not mean that his contributions to the start of this great country were not profound and far reaching.

Benjamin Franklin could easily be described as what was popularly known in his day as a "renaissance man". He was truly proficient in many fields of discipline and he had a mind that was fascinated with all areas of study and knowledge. As such he brought to the discussions with his fellow founding fathers a knowledge of political theory, an awareness of history and an ability to speculate on the perfect union that was crucial to the laying the conceptual foundation of what America would come to be when it blossomed into reality.

For many, we remember Benjamin Franklin as a great scientist and inventor. And to be sure he qualified in that realm as well. Every school boy or girl has that image of him flying that kite to capture electricity to test his theories that is so popular in our mythology of his accomplishments. But these images are no myth for Franklin was truly a great inventor contributing to the world such important innovations as the lightning rod, swim fins, the catheter, the harmonica and bifocals. In that way, Benjamin Franklin had as much in common with Michelangelo as he did with Thomas Jefferson and indeed he was in good company if listed with either.

But it was a political theorist and a philosopher that Franklin made huge contributions to the development of the American experiment in its early formations. It was he who was able to envision the concept of a new American nation. But his talents did not end at his ability to use his powerful mind to envision the future so well. He was also a talented communicator, writer and teacher so he was able to use his eloquence and magnetic personality to promote the idea of an American nation both within the colonies and internationally.

Benjamin Franklin was truly a citizen of the world as he was as comfortable in the courtyards of France as he was in the pubs of Boston. In fact, he was so popular on both sides of the Atlantic that he served as America's first ambassador to France and therein lies one of his greatest contributions to the independence of the new country. He was able to use his vast popularity and his trained powers of persuasion to cause the French to enter the battle on the side of the colonies against the British which was a major contributor to the success of the revolution to free America from English control and launch the independent American nation.

Franklin's writings have become treasured documents among the archives of this important time in American history. But just as much as his written work, his influence as a thinker, an intellectual and an international diplomat set the standard for others to follow after him and truly established America as a member of the international community of nations.

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The Cornerstone Of American Law

(category: American-History, Word count: 568)
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There are just a few truly great documents that represent the foundation stones upon which the American system of government was built. One is the Declaration of Independence. Another is The Bill of Rights. But when it comes to the legal girding that we always go back to in order to test if a law in this land can stand or fall, it is the Constitution of the United States of America that is that backbone that defines right and wrong for us.

Indeed you might even say that the sole reason we have a Supreme Court is to have a living body that is here to decide on, interpret and enforce constitutional law. And what is the worse accusation anyone can make about any act that is in question from a government agency? "That's unconstitutional" is that accusation. That is how powerful this document is in American life, legal definitions and culture.

The historical context of the signing of The Constitution was The Constitutional Convention on September 17, 1787 in Philadelphia. That city witnessed many such historic events which enshrine its place in the history of the country to be sure. The framers of that Constitution would have to be considered without question the most intelligent and well educated men certainly of their time and maybe of any time. That document was so well crafted that it has lasted as a legal standard for over 200 years with no signs that its power will diminish for hundreds of years more. But in that context, the Constitution is the oldest document of its kind in existence in the world and the original is carefully protected but on display in Washington DC.

The Constitution reflected the best of some of the oldest legal documents of similar intent that went back hundreds of years into history. As such the Constitution includes ideas drawn from the Magna Carta, the French political philosopher Montesquieu, The Code of Hammurabi, the law of the Old Testament, ancient Greek political ideology from such writers as Polybius as well as Common Law from England. So while the core ideas of the Constitution draw from some of the greatest systems of government and ideologies from history, the outcome is a unique format for governing a people that was so untried that it was considered to be "The Great American Experiment."

The Constitution is divided into seven "articles" each of which discusses one of the divisions of government. Articles one through three discuss the three branches of government including the legislative, the executive and the judicial. Article four goes into depth about the rights and powers reserved to the states. It is clear to see that the framers knew the importance of leaving much of the power of governing at the local and state level and that those rights needed to be preserved at the foundational document of the society, The Constitution.

Other articles discuss the ratification process and federal power. But the wisdom of the framers of The Constitution lie in article five which outlines a process of amendments which leaves room for additional work to be done to keep the Constitution up to date to changes that need to be made. As such the Constitution has remained a living document for all of these years and will continue to be seen in that light for many decades and centuries to come.

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The Boston Tea Party

(category: American-History, Word count: 728)
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There are some events that took place during the historic time when America was declaring its independence from England that are so historic, so iconic that they have taken on the status of myth and legend as much as history. And certainly the Boston Tea Party fits that description. This is such a stand out event in American history that it is common to see school children reenact it during elementary school plays or skits. And the participants names including John Hancock, Paul Revere and John Adams have similarly become classic heroic figures in American folklore and history.

But the events of December 16, 1776 were not fable or myth but real and important parts of the development of the American Revolution that was crucial to the early foundation of this country. The situation of taxation that was being imposed by Brittan on goods that were coming into the colonies was one of serious stress on the colonists because they had no control over those taxes. And that tax situation was made more extreme with the relationship between the British government and the East India Tea company who was receiving tax breaks for their goods that would place them at a competitive advantage in the Americas.

These kinds of preferential treatment only aggravated the already tense relationship between the colonies and Britain and many in leadership over the American states saw the way England was handling the situation as conspiratorial to try to hurt the economy of the growing new country and to impose restrictive rule through taxation on the colonies and the colonists. That is why that famous proclamation "No Taxation Without Representation" became one that is historic for the outrage against the English that took the colonies into revolutionary war that eventually lead to the independence of the American colonies and the beginning of a new country.

Finally on Thursday, December 16, 1776, decisive action needed to be taken. And our forefathers were nothing if not known for bold and decisive action in the fact of tyranny. The East India Tea Company had docked the HMS Dartmouth in Boston harbor full of a fresh import of tea for the colonies. It was time for the colonists to make a statement that this unethical and immoral use of taxes on tea was for all intents and purposes an act of war and they were going to treat it as such.

Badly disguised as Indians, the brave colonists boarded the HMS Dartmouth and her sister ships, the HMS Beaver and the HMS Eleanor and skillfully and efficiently dumped the entire delivery of tea into Boston harbor. All totaled, over forty five tons of tea went into the water that night. It was a stunning blow. But more than that it was a slap in the face of the British government and a gauntlet laid down that their attempts to rule the colonies b tyranny were not going to be tolerated any longer.

This event was pivotal in pushing the hostilities between England and the colonies past the "nuisance" stage and setting forces in motion for war. But more than that, it was such a bold statement of defiance that many colonists were inspired to join the increasing chorus calling for war and independence.

For loyal Britains, the idea of separating and forming their own country was hard to grasp. But the leadership of the men who planned and executed the Boston Tea Party demonstrated a new independent spirit. This was the kind of backbone, the sense of pride and independence that was to come to define the American spirit in years ahead. But it took the courage and boldness of this little band of men to demonstrate that being trod on by a foreign tyrant was not something we had to put up with.

It made a statement to England and to the colonists at the same time that revolution was possible and they really could think of themselves as free people who would bow to no king. From that time forward the independence of America was inevitable. These visionary leaders showed us an America that gave power to its people, not to kings or governments and the result in how America works and our lives are lived is the direct outcome of bold protests such as the Boston Tea Party.

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America Conquers The Air

(category: American-History, Word count: 640)
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If you ask any student even in elementary school why the town of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina is significant to American history, they will know the answer immediately. They will know that this was the place that Orville and Wilber Wright made the first working airplane and discovered that man could fly.

Today, with thousands of airplanes taking to the sky at any given moment and the experience of flying high above the earth as common as riding a bicycle, it seems that a world where men did not fly is as far away as the ancient Romans. But we have to travel in time back to the days before the Wright brothers made their phenomenal discovery and the invention of the first aircraft when there was a time when it was firmly believed that man would never fly like a bird and indeed, man was meant to never fly but always be a terrestrial being. We can be grateful that the Wright brothers did not hold to that belief.

The date of that first successful flight was December 17, 1903. It was on that fateful day that Orville and Wilber successfully flew the first controlled, powered, heavier than air airplane. This break through ranks as one of the greatest inventions of American history and in truth, one of the great inventions of all time as man had been dreaming of being able to fly as far back as we have primitive drawings illustrating that dream.

The Wright brothers were well suited to go through the tedious research to finally create a machine that could accomplish this feat. We all know that great inventions are often the results of hundreds or thousands of failures and tests by which the inventor refines his ideas and makes new discoveries that take him step by step toward that final break through. That was certainly true of the Wright brothers.

Our reference to flight becoming as common as riding a bicycle is well chosen because it was the Wright brothers vocation as mechanics repairing printing presses, motors and bicycles that gave them the knowledge of the inner workings of such machines that was needed to create a machine that could sustain flight. Their work to perfect the design of the common bicycle lead them to believe that conquering flight was not a question of providing sufficient power to the aircraft as it was providing mechanisms of control and balance to properly keep the aircraft steady with sufficient consistency that it could take to the air.

Long before that first successful flight, the Wright brothers conducted their research. Using their bicycle shop as a makeshift laboratory, they first experimented with gliders and unmanned aircraft to refine their theories and their designs. But finally on December 17, 1903, they achieved their dream of manned flight, even if only for a short time. Orville Wright's account of that first flight is scientific and understated.

"Wilbur started the fourth and last flight at just about 12 o'clock. The first few hundred feet were up and down, as before, but by the time three hundred feet had been covered, the machine was under much better control. The course for the next four or five hundred feet had but little undulation. However, when out about eight hundred feet the machine began pitching again, and, in one of its darts downward, struck the ground. The distance over the ground was measured to be 852 feet; the time of the flight was 59 seconds."

Little did the Wright brothers know that an entire new industry would be built around these simple experiments. Moreover, they had achieved a dream man had dreamed for centuries, to actually be able to fly above the ground and come back safely. It is truly one of the great accomplishments of American history.

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Saving Kuwait

(category: American-History, Word count: 734)
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The history of American use of its military forces, there are some stand out examples of how America considers its military might be a force for good and justice. And the use of military for a just cause can be beautifully illustrated in the way America came to the aid of an ally in the Gulf War of 1991. This war goes under a lot of names including Operation Desert Storm and the Liberation of Kuwait. But whatever title, it was a battle America needed to enter into because of an unjust invasion of an ally and an act of aggression we could not just stand by and let happen.

The United States and the civilized nations of the world had put up with a lot of barbaric behavior from Saddam Husain, the dictator in Iraq for a long time. He was becoming more and more aggressive in his push to test the will and the ability of advanced nations to stop him. But he crossed the line when on August 2, 1990 Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait on trumped up charges of illegal drilling of oil on border property between the two countries.

It is important to remember that America and it's allies did not launch a full scale attack within days or weeks of the Iraqi take over of Kuwait. There were efforts to negotiate and resolve the crisis by peaceful means. But Saddam Hussein defied the world and continued his plan to absorb Kuwait and then possibly take the attack to the next stage into Saudi Arabia.

The Gulf War was also an important statement to the world that America's allies are important to us and we will defend them if it comes to that. We proved that in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and here in the Middle East. When a country becomes a friend of the United States, it's enemies become our enemies. And in this unthinkable invasion, not only did Iraq directly assault one of America's allies, that hostility showed that Saudi Arabia was at risk which was a very important ally as well.

America also leveraged its ability to depend on it's friends from around the world, rallying a tremendous international force as the preparations for war began to mature. In total, 34 countries sent troops, ships, arms and other military assistance to join with American military power to turn back this invasion.

The other lesson this war taught the enemies of America is the phenomenal effectiveness of the American military. On January 17, 1991, the assault began with a massive air attack that stunned the Iraqis and the world. The ferocity of the bombings and the firestorm that defying the west brought down on the Iraqi military virtually doomed them to ever mount an efficient force to fight back against this overwhelming military response to their aggression.

Following that air attack came one of the most brilliant ground campaigns in modern warfare. Using modern technology, America faced Iraq's impressive army on their home turf and soundly defeated them. The Iraqi strategy was to keep the massive desert behind them because they felt no enemy could ever navigate that desert and find their rear flank. But was a deadly miscalculation as the coalition forces, lead by General Norman Schwarzkopf, used satellite technology and navigation systems to guide their armies across that desert by night and stage a stunning surprise attack on the Iraqi Republican Guard bringing them to defeat with a decisive blow.

The term "Lightning War" could best be used to describe the l ability of the American lead coalition armies to repel this invasion on Kuwait. By early March of 1991, major hostilities were over and Kuwait had been liberated. To defeat an enemy in less than 90 days was accomplishment the world never thought possible. But demonstrated to the world that America was able to defend its allies and stop a ruthless dictator.

Since that war there has been discussions about whether President Bush should have used the advantage we gained by defeating Saddam's armies to capture Iraq as well. President Bush showed great wisdom by sticking to the declared mission and returning Kuwait to Kuwaiti control. H shows that President Bush in 1991 was showing wisdom in his leadership which resulted in Operation Desert Storm turning out to be one of the most successful military campaigns in United States history.

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Manifest Destiny

(category: American-History, Word count: 656)
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America is a vast country covering thousands of square miles of land that traverses tremendously diverse climate and landscape. From high and majestic mountains, to wide deserts to vast fruitful plains that seem to go on forever, the sheer size of the physical landscape of America is breath taking.

Obviously, this was not always the case. When those earliest settlers landed on the east coast and carved out their stark settlements, they had no idea of huge expanse of land that lay to the west. It took the bold explorations of surveyors such and Lewis and Clark to report back how stunningly huge the amount of physical space that was available for America to inhabit.

At first, the very idea of becoming a nation was seemingly impossible for the early settlers to grasp. They came here to escape persecution, tyranny or to make a new home for their families. If they could have looked a few hundred years down the line into the future and seen the powerhouse of a nation that would grow up from their work in those early years, they would have been stunned that this country grew to be such a world force. So the earliest challenges of settlers and early leaders of the citizens of the young America was to grasp the scope of what they were about to set about to achieve.

But grasp that scope they did. It seemed that the physical majesty of what was to become the nation of America inspired a concept that was just as grand as the land itself and that was the concept of Manifest Destiny. Manifest destiny was the force that drove those settlers and explorers to drive their wagon trains across sometimes impossible terrain through difficult weather conditions and facing many dangers from animals and Native Americans alike to build a nation that spanned form the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans.

This was the dream of the early settlers of this country. They did not just see a new nation but one of importance, of an almost holy calling to become a virtual utopia of democracy and opportunity. And part of that utopian vision was the idea of a nation that spanned ocean to ocean and from Mexico to the Canadian border as well.

When you think about it, its phenomenal that a people who did not have space photographs of a landscape or high speed travel such as is common today to get a vision of a unified nation of such vast size and scope. But it was more than just physical size that spoke to the hearts and souls of those early Americans. Manifest Destiny spoke to a vision of greatness for America that was birthed in the hearts of even these early citizens.

The size of the country was to be a reflection of the majesty of the human spirit and the magnificence of the American experiment to build a nation built on freedom, the will of the people and on democracy and opportunity. Today such concepts seem ordinary and for that we can thank the early founders of this country for catching that dream together and making it a reality.

Many have criticized Manifest Destiny as greed or empire building. And to be sure, mistakes were made and many people died or had their individual destinies hurt in the wholesale rush to the west that America experienced in its early decades. But what is not diminished is that sense of calling and that sense that America was put here for something great. That calling lives still in the hearts of all true Americans as we find out how we too can help our country fulfill its Manifest Destiny to be a voice for freedom and liberty in the world. Let's hope Americans never loose their sense of calling and destiny. Because if that dies away, something holy and magnificent will die with it.

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Abraham Lincoln

(category: American-History, Word count: 699)
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We would like to think all of our presidents of the United States were truly great men and to be sure, just handling the awesome responsibility of the presidency takes a special kind of individual. One of the unique and great things about the system of government in America is the concept of citizen leadership. This is the idea of an ordinary citizen rising up and becoming president for a while and then returning to private life.

But of the handful of men who have held that office, a few have stood out for their great achievements and leadership in a time that changed the country for ever. And one of these truly great presidents was Abraham Lincoln. Probably more than any other president, Lincoln had to handle an internal civil war that was far more than shouting and name calling. This was a dispute that could have torn the country in half and starting a rupturing that could have resulted in dozens of small weak independent states instead of the powerful nation we know as America today.

It was Lincoln's leadership, his commitment to values and his strong moral fiber that made it possible for America to find its way through that war and then to begin the healing process that would eventually lead the nation back to unity once again. Lincoln's term of service from 1860 until his death was one of considerable challenge. If he only had the problem of dealing with the attempt by the south to succeed from the union and his ability to keep those states as part of the American national territory, he would be lauded as a great American indeed.

One of the little known leadership styles that Lincoln used to his advantage in the organization of his presidency was his appointment of talented national figures from opposing political parties to be part of his cabinet. Lincoln felt that he needed to have close advisors from the opposing viewpoint to keep from having his presidency become insulated from the American people and one sided. By gathering members of the "loyal opposition" into his trusted inner circle, Lincoln was always aware of both sides of every issue which made him a stronger leader.

But that is not even his greatest accomplishment or the one that we remember him for the most. His bold and unchanging opposition to slavery is without any doubt his greatest contribution to the history of America and indeed to world history as well. When he was willing to put everything on the line to stop this barbaric social sin, Lincoln made a stand, against the popular opinion of the time in many cases that he would be the figure to bring slavery to an end.

It was not a stand that came without cost. The civil war was one of the bloodiest and costliest in the nation's history if for no other reason than all casualties; on both sides were casualties of America. It would take many decades for the ravages of that horrible war to be repaired. The schism between north and south continued for decades and is still a part of our national personality in this country.

But the end result was what Lincoln wanted to be his legacy. By issuing the Emancipation Proclamation to make the end of slavery permanent, Lincoln followed that up with the passing of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments which made permanent the freedoms that were hard fought and won in the Civil War.

The freedom that was won for so many black Americans in that war permanently enshrined the memory of Abraham Lincoln as one of our greatest presidents in the hearts and minds of all Americans. Small wonder the monument honoring him on Washington's national mall is one of the most revered spots in the nation and one that thousands flock to each year to give respect for this great president that made liberty and freedom a reality for all Americans, not just a few. And his face on Mount Rushmore is well deserved so the very mountain itself shouts out, this is one of the greatest leaders in the history of this great country.

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