The Difference between Abraham Lincoln and Occupy Wall Street

The place we were given to stay by a friend of my dad's in Santa Fe.

The last leg of the long trip that began way back on May 21st, 2011 took us from Santa Fe, New Mexico, through Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri, all the way to Springfield, Illinois in just two days. It was in Springfield that we stayed with the last family member of the trip, my Uncle Steve. My dad’s youngest brother, whose children have all left home, lives in a suburban neighborhood not far from downtown Springfield. We enjoyed the novelty of spacious beds, engaging conversations, and ribs to die for.

Uncle Steve is not the only person of repute to live in Springfield, Illinois. History buffs and casual students alike will recall the sixteenth president, one Abraham Lincoln, made a home for himself in Springfield. When he arrived he was poor, when he left for the White House, he made $5000 a year at time when the average American made $150. He would of course go on to preside over the dissolution of the union, the end of slavery, and the reuniting of the states. Not bad for a country lawyer.

Supposedly the world's largest cross, somewhere in Oklahoma. Or Texas, I'm not quite sure.

Lincoln’s story reminded me though, that often to change the things we want to change most, to correct the most heinous injustices, we have to work within the system and take the opportunity when it comes. Had Lincoln, who, as far as history knows, always hated slavery, taken to protesting rather than politics, slavery might still exist. And so, as I have watched the Occupy movement unfold, I have, for the first time, had to make the conscious decision to move on what moves me and support the Occupier’s, or stay the course of higher education and system living and wait for the time—if it ever comes— when I can help create the world I want to see. Perhaps these two things are not diametrically opposed,or maybe there is a line to walk in between, but for the vast majority of my driving hours, my mind was occupied with those thoughts.

The spot and couch where Lincoln was offered the nomination for President.

After touring the Lincoln home and watching a video on his life, it was on to Indianapolis and the home my father spent his high school years in. As we drove the ten miles from the interstate through what was once farmland and in now strip malls, we came up on a funeral home and a barn that, over fifty years ago, was my father’s home. It was amazing to see him point out the changes, rediscover his old bedroom, and tell stories of the house to the funeral assistant who let us inside to look.

The house has changed dramatically, but interestingly enough the barn remains pretty much unchanged in fifty years. It was in that house that my father made the same decision I have to. Work with the system to affect change, or against it. Once a lock for the Foreign Service, his time in the Peace Corps (in, where else but Peru?) led him instead to protest the Vietnam War as the President of the Committee of Return Volunteers. Had he not, he would never have founded his own organization and spent the last forty years working to help the Vietnamese, Laos, Cambodian, and Cuban people. Had he stuck with the Foreign Service, who knows…

My dad's high school home.

And so, from Indianapolis to Mansfield, Ohio we sped, arriving later than we thought thanks to the ever changing time zones. The very next day, we woke up early, completed our final day of between eight and ten hours of driving, and arrived without incident in Irvington, New York—to everyone’s shock, in time for dinner. Even more of a shocker: no speeding tickets for all 4,603 miles of the final leg of the Road Trip of Passage.


One response to “The Difference between Abraham Lincoln and Occupy Wall Street

  1. Dear John, I don’t think there is A system — there are many systems — body systems, eco systems, family systems, organizations, communities, countries and any one of them will welcome your fabulous engagement. Do what you love honey. Susan

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