Here I am again, Scoop, your cup reporter from The Shady Pines Gazette newspaper. Today is President’s Day and here in the office, we’ve been kicking around ideas about what this day means to the children growing up today. My editor, Zulah Talmadge asked me who is my favorite U.S. president.
I had to think about that for a minute. I think I have two if you really want to know. So, I’ll start with George Washington. There’s so much to know about Washington. You already know that he was one of the founding fathers of this country and that he led the fight to gain our independence from the British. He not only became our first elected president but he introduced the concept of term limits.
But here’s the thing that sticks with me. The actual event may not be true, but the lesson is a good one. In school we learned the cherry tree myth is the most well-known and longest enduring legend about the first American president. In the original story, when Washington was six years old he received a hatchet as a gift and damaged his father’s cherry tree.
When his father discovered what he had done, he became angry and confronted him. Young George bravely said, “I cannot tell a lie…I did cut it with my hatchet.” Washington’s father embraced him and rejoiced that his son’s honesty was worth more than a thousand trees.
PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN
That meant something to me because my parents are always telling me how important it is to be honest. And that brings me to my second, favorite, present. After all, Abraham Lincoln’ nickname was, “Honest Abe.”
Do you know that Abraham Lincoln, our 16th president, was known for his honesty way back when he was my age. That’s really cool.
The future president was first called “Honest Abe” when he was working as a young store clerk in New Salem, Ill. According to one story, whenever he realized he had shortchanged a customer by a few pennies, he would close the shop and deliver the correct change-regardless of how far he had to walk.
People recognized his integrity and were soon asking him to act as judge or mediator in various contests, fights, and arguments. According to Robert Rutledge of New Salem, “Lincoln’s judgment was final in all that region of country. People relied implicitly upon his honesty, integrity, and impartiality.
The other thing that impresses me about Lincoln is that he came from a very modest background and worked hard all his life. He was best known for his expertise at spitting wood. As a president he led us through the Civil War, one of the darkest periods in our history. Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg address includes one of the most important notions about our country ever stated: “government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.” That statement still gives me chills.
So, what I would tell little kids who ask me why I like these presidents, I think these two men demonstrate what it is to be a leader. They also were the kinds of people we’d love to have as neighbors here in Shady Pines Story Town. After all, the people who live in this small Southern town believe that we need to treat other people the way we’d like to be treated. Presidents Washington and Lincoln symbolize many of the qualities we all wish we had.