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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

What are you reading?

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Stories have a way of cheering us up, opening our minds, mending our hearts, and taking us on journeys we would otherwise never be able to enjoy.

That’s what I love about a good book. 

I especially love a good mystery. 

Reading was something that was encouraged in our home from the time I was old enough to go to the local library in Moore, Oklahoma. 

There’s nothing like a well written book. 

Over the years, I’ve amassed a formidable library, if I may be so presumptuous. 

Therefore, when I’m not writing for the paper or writing the weekly sermon, it’s not uncommon for me to have a book in my hand. 

During the holiday season I found a series on Amazon Prime called the Great American Read. It was filmed  during 2018. PBS was on a quest to find out the top 100 favorite books of American readers. 

I won’t go into the entire list here, but I would like to share a few. 

Coming in at number 83 was Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.”

I was pleased to see Novels with a Christian theme included on the list. 

“Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan was number 80.

The “Left Behind” series did somewhat better by landing at number 77. 

A classic, “Gulliver’s Travels” was number 75.

Ralph Ellison, one of two writers from Oklahoma whose books made the list, was recognized by having his  award winning book, “Invisible Man” listed as number 72. 

A timeless classic, “Don Quixote,” made it to number 68 on the list. 

“A Separate Peace,” by John Knowles, a book I was required to read in High School, was number 67. 

The book that came in at number 58 is one enjoyed by myself and Ryan native, Jon Harris. I talked to him this week while preparing for the story about the Ryan Drug store. During our conversation I let him know about this editorial and that the book he introduced me to was on the list. He wasn’t surprised. In case your wondering the book is titled, “A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole. It won the Pulitzer Prize.

Those of you who enjoy a moving romantic story will be pleased to know that “The Notebook” was number 56. 

If you have time this year, and you will need plenty to finish the book that was listed as number 50, “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy.

Do you know where the phrase “Catch-22” comes from? You guessed it. It’s number 47 on the list. “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller.

“The Outsiders,” by S.E. Hinton made number 32. She is the there Oklahoma writer who made the top 100. Susie Hinton was born and raised in Tulsa. She still lives there today. 

Charles Dickens made the list with his book “Great Expectations” coming in at number 29. 

“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll listed at number 28. 

A man who lives not from here wrote the book that was listed as number 22. His name is Larry McMurtry. The book is titled, “Lonesome Dove.”

“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain made the list at number 17. 

The favorite book of those who submitted their favorite titles to the PBS website was none other than “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee.

What’s your favorite book? Do you have more than one? That’s okay. So do I. 

We are curious to find out what yours are. Use the form below or email us at waurikanewsjournal@gmail.com with your list of favorite books. You can send us as many as you want. We will accept your list all year until the last week in November. We will announce the list in a December issue. 

Learning to live in the moment.

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 Everyone has moments they look back on with fondness, moments perhaps which even define them as a person. 

Sadly for many of us, those moments are too few and far between. 

Sometimes it’s because life is too busy.

However, much of the time it’s because we simply fail to live in the moment. 

Thomas Carlyle once wrote, “Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.”

That statement had a profound impact on a man by the name of Sir William Osler. 

In a speech to students at Yale University, Osler related the truth of that statement in a short sentence, “live in day-tight compartments.”

Osler went on to explain. He said forget about yesterday, don’t focus on the future and simply focus on today. Put another way, live in the moment. 

Researches have accumulated DATA on what makes people unhappy. 

What they discovered is that one of the contributors to unhappiness is a habit that everyone engages in throughout the day. It’s called mind-wandering.

We as humans have the ability to let our minds wander to other things instead of focusing on the task directly in front of us. 

In other words, we are not doing what lies clearly at hand. 

Let’s face it. We live in a fast-paced demanding world. 

Everything was due yesterday. 

Because of that, we feel a constant need to be planning ahead, thinking about the tasks yet to be completed.

This causes chaos and confusion and yes, unhappiness.

Over the past few months, there have been a plethora of books on the market about mindfulness.  

Mindfulness is defined as achieving a state of mind where one focuses on the present moment. 

Some of these writers express this idea as if it is a new concept. 

They forget that the greatest teacher who ever lived taught this principle two-thousand years ago.

He said not to worry about tomorrow. He even went so far as to say not to even worry about what you would eat, drink or wear. 

What he was saying was to focus on the moment you are in. 

How many of us have missed out on life simply because we let our minds wander at the wrong times?

We are with our children playing a simple game but our minds are at work. 

Instead of enjoying time with our spouse we are thinking about other ways we could be making money. 

At other times we can’t enjoy our day off from work because we are worried about whatever is screaming at us the most in our minds. 

Moments are special. Sadly, if we don’t learn to live in those moments while they are happening there is a good chance we won’t even remember them. 

Life is short and is made up of moments. Let’s enjoy each and every one. 

Thanksgiving Moments in History

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This Thursday over 54 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends according to the AAA travel website. 

The preferred meal, obviously, will be turkey and dressing. Eighty-eight percent of us will indulge our appetite on the bird Benjamin Franklin wanted to be the symbol of America. All total, 46 million turkeys will be eaten this Thanksgiving. 

Stuffing is an important part of the traditional meal. Fifty-percent like their stuffing on the inside of the bird. How do you like yours?

The celebratory feast has its roots in the early days of American history. Names like Squanto, William Bradford along with the pilgrims who landed at Plymouth rock come to mind. 

It has been recorded that William Bradford was the first to organize a “Thanksgiving” feast that brought Native Americans and Pilgrims together. It lasted three days. 

Abraham Lincoln was the first president given credit for making the holiday a permanent annual event. However, the idea of making Thanksgiving a national holiday was the idea of Sarah Josepha Hale, author of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. She worked tirelessly for 36 years to achieve her goal through editorials, letters to governors, senators and presidents. Lincoln heeded her request in 1863.

One of the traditions of the day is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The first one took place in New York City in 1924. This week around 3.5 million people will attend the parade while another 50 million will watch it on television. This year’s parade will include 16 giant character balloons, 43 novelty balloons, 26 floats, 1,200 cheerleaders and dancers, 1,000 clowns, and 12 marching bands. The parade should last around 3 hours. 

The song “Jingle Bells” was originally meant to be a Thanksgiving song. It was written in 1857 by James Lord Pierpont and published under the name “One Horse Open Sleigh”. The song became so popular that it became a part of Christmas.

During World War I the government printing office published cookbooks so members of the armed forces could cook their favorite Thanksgiving meals. 

A poster from WWI urging Americans to ration sugar.

Newspapers did their part during the Thanksgiving season during WWI. Newspapers published recipes and ideas to help families enjoy the holiday with limited resources due to rationing. 

Because sugar was in such short supply, cranberry sauces were discouraged in many of the newspaper articles. 

Of course, the best WWI Thanksgiving feast occurred on November 28, 1918, the Thanksgiving immediately after the war, which ended on November 11th at 11:00 am. That was a hundred years ago this year. 

How do you like to celebrate Thanksgiving? What family traditions do you enjoy? What memories bring you happiness during this festive time of the year?

We at the Waurika News Journal & The Ryan Leader wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving.

Mosquitos are not that smart

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The other day in a moment of exasperation, my daughter, Lauren, declared the mosquito should be the new state bird. 

These pest are annoying.

I discovered this for myself the other night as I was kicked back in my recliner enjoying some late night reading. 

Evidently, the lamp near the chair served as a magnet, however, it drew the blood suckers to me and not the lamp. 

What I found intriguing about my experience with the new state birds is their reaction after discovering that their presence was unwelcome and would be met with certain doom. 

I dispensed with the first mosquito with the swat of my hand, sending it into eternity. 

It wasn’t but a few seconds later that I was forced to preside over the funeral of another invader. 

Either mosquitos are blind, incredibly dumb or both.

You would have thought the second perpetrator would have learned from the example of the first. Landing on a human being’s skin is deadly for mosquitos. Unfortunately, they never caught on. 

Scientist will probably tell you that mosquitos are simply acting on instinct. It’s just in their DNA to attack a human being and they give no thought to the possible consequences. How sad for them. 

However, the more I think about it, we highly intelligent humans are really not that much different. 

We have all watched our friends (and enemies) do things that were incredibly stupid and then suffer dearly for it. 

You would think that we would learn from their example and not follow in their footsteps. 

Sadly, more often than not we don’t. 

I guess the incredibly stupid things our examples engaged in looked like so much fun we just couldn’t help ourselves. 

So, I have a suggestion.

If it is so very important that we simply follow the examples of others, why  not pick someone who is worth following. Someone worthy of imitating. 

Does anyone like that come to mind?

Oklahoma Gold Album Turns 60

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Sixty years go, the sound track from the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, “Oklahoma,” was the first album certified by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) as gold. 

According to the Association’s website there was a special ceremony at the Oklahoma History Museum on July 10th commemorating the first ever gold album turning 60. 

Gov. Mary Fallin accepted the commemorative plaque on behalf of the state and issued a proclamation that celebrated the “major milestone in music history.”

It was on July 8, 1958 when the RIAA, the organization which administers the Gold and Platinum Awards Program, bestowed the prestigious honor on the album. 

The album featured  performances by Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones and various cast members.

Songs recorded on the album included “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin” and “The Surrey With the Fringe On Top” as well as the timeless classic “Oklahoma”. 

Recently “Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway Revolution,” a book written by Todd S. Purdum was released. 

In it he talks about the partnership of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein and how they came together to write the musical that would become Oklahoma.”

It was based on a musical from 1931 called “Green Grow the Lilacs.”

They had known each other for years so their official business partnership began with a simple handshake. 

They then did something radical for writers at the time. They formed their own music publishing company. 

Next, they were the first to mass produce the cast performance as an album in such a successful fashion. 

What set “Oklahoma” apart from other Broadway shows at the time was the way it opened. 

Most musicals opened with loud exciting music to catch the audiences attention. This also allowed late comers to enter the theater and settle into their seats without missing anything of the story line. 

“Oklahoma” opened with a simple scene with someone on the stage sitting quietly and unassuming.

 The whole production was more than just a musical, it was actually a well written story that conveyed the emotions and thoughts of the characters through songs and dance in a way that had never been done quite so well before. 

Another uniqueness of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s collaboration was that the writing of the lyrics was finished before the music was composed. 

Most writers of the time composed the music first then later wrote the lyrics. 

Hammerstein wrote the lyrics and Rodgers penned the music. 

Rodgers said that Hammerstein’s lyrics were beautifully written even without a tune. 

The two seldom worked in the same room.

The now famous Broadway hit opened on March 31, 1943 to a less that packed out crowd. 

“Oklahoma” ran for 2,212 performances and has been performed by music companies, colleges and high school students around the world. 

Rodgers and Hammerstein won a Pulitzer Prize for the production in 1944.

The play wasn’t made into a film until 1955. The recording was made shortly thereafter thus beginning the album’s journey to gold status. 

Interestingly, “Oklahoma” was one the first albums that used the original cast members to sing the songs on the recording. 

It’s amazing that an album about a romance on the prairie  was one of the first to be certified gold. 

It’s also amazing that album is about our amazing home state Oklahoma—where the winds come sweeping down the plain.

You’re doing fine Oklahoma. 

Freedom, the Declaration and the Press

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 It has been said by some that the Declaration of Independence is the central document of American history. 

As true as that may be, other documents helped further the cause of American independence in their own way. 

Some of those documents were none other than local newspapers. 

Colonist in the new world around the late 1700s were avid readers thanks to newspapers. 

Some of the first continuously published newspapers in the original thirteen colonies were located in Boston. 

Ironically, the first blood shed in the Revolutionary War may have actually been shed in Boston.

 On March 5, 1770 British soldiers opened fire on citizens in Boston. The citizens were believed to be unarmed. 

The event was widely reported by local newspapers and was notoriously known as The Boston Massacre.

Originally, the scene was captured in an engraving by an artist by the name of Henry Pelham. Unfortunately for Pelham, his close friend Paul Revere copied his engraving and took full credit. Today, it’s Revere’s engraving (artistic rendering) that is referred to as the propaganda responsible for fueling the flames of revolution in the colonies. 

The graphic and volatile image was seen throughout the colonies thanks to a Boston newspaper known as the Boston Gazette (The Gazette paid Paul Revere to engrave his version of the Boston Massacre). 

The Boston Gazette was started in 1719. The famous publishers Benjamin Edes and John Gill were responsible for the paper’s success from 1755 to 1775. After that date Edes was the sole publisher.

It is said by some sources that the Boston Gazette started the American Revolution. 

That’s hard to argue.

However, it is a fact that many of the early American patriots wrote moving articles in the Gazette to inspire the citizens of Boston and readers from around the colonies to fight for their independence. 

Samuel Adams, one of the many contributors,  wrote under so many pen names in the Gazette that historians are unsure of just how many different ones he actually used (it’s estimated that he used approximately 25). 

The Sons of Liberty (a secret society formed to fight what was considered unfair taxes on the colonies by the British) would meet in secret at the offices of the Boston Gazette. 

The paper was so hated by the British that it was on a list of establishments that were to be seized by the Crown’s soldiers when possible. 

Historically, many of the famous events leading up to the revolution were first printed in the Gazette: The Boston Tea Party, The Boston Massacre etc.

Although circulation in those early days of American history would seem to be meager by modern day standards, the papers that did circulate were shared and the news spread fast!

Of course, the Boston Gazette was not the only local paper pressing for independence. 

There was also the Pennsylvania Journal, the Connecticut Courant, the New York Journal, Providence Gazette and many others. 

Because of Benjamin Franklin’s postal system, news spread very fast throughout the colonies. 

In those days there were no televisions, iphones, ipads or the internet. Newspapers were king.

Although the newspapers may not have always been fair and balanced, they were widely read and the main source of information.

A case in point is the famous engraving by Paul Revere in the Boston Gazette.

Although the image is riveting, it is historically inaccurate and very biased against the British. 

Today, some would say the end justified the means. 

Perhaps. 

Regardless, you can’t deny that newspapers were the other documents that helped fuel the flames of American’s burning desire for independence. 

That being said, we still give the highest reverence to the document penned by Jefferson—The Declaration of Independence. 

The freedoms embodied in this document are worth dying for, and more importantly worth living for. 

May our newspapers always honor that freedom.

Bennie Adkins New Book Available

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 He’s a relative, a friend, a war hero, a Congressional Medal of Honor winner, and now he’s a published author. 

Bennie Adkins, whose statue stands in Veterans Park as a reminder of the acts of valor on the battle field, has recently published A Tiger Among Us.

It’s a soldier’s story. It’s his account of the events that would one day lead to President Obama awarding him the Medal of Honor. It’s the story of bravery in Vietnam at a place called A Shau Valley. 

It’s a first person account of an atrocious battle that cost some of Adkins’ fellow soldiers their lives.

In the preface Adkins relates what the Medal of Honor means to him and why he wears it proudly.

He writes, “I was awarded the Medal of Honor for my actions during a battle in the Vietnam War, but I wear it in honor of others. I wear it for the more than fifty million men and women who have served our country in both times of war and peace. I wear it to remind us all of their sacrifices and how so few of them have worked so hard to keep so many of us safe throughout our nation’s history. [Today, our military represents just one percent of our nation’s entire population.] I also wear it to honor the 2.7 million Americans who fought in Vietnam, especially the more than fifty-eight thousand who died there, twelve hundred of which never came home.

“But most important of all, I tell them that I’m honored and humbled to wear the Medal of  Honor not for myself, but for the sixteen other men who fought with me during the Battle of A Shua in March 1966, five of whom paid the ultimate price.”

In the prologue he relates the story for which the book is named.  

They had found a place to rest for the night after he and his 11 special forces companions had spent 38 hours fighting against an enemy that outnumbered them 10 to 1. 

Out of the 17 Special Forces soldiers stationed at Camp A Shua these 11 were the only ones still alive. 

Their orders were to evacuate. The plan turned out to not be as simple 

as it sounds. The enemy was attempting to prevent their evacuation and plans had to be changed. Adkins was forced to improvise.

Finding a secure place on the high ground seemed like the best solution.

A rescue attempt was made, but one of the helicopters was shot down. 

They would be spending another night in enemy territory.

Waiting.

It would be the next day before another chance of being lifted out could be attempted.

It was during that long lonely night that they encountered an Indochinese tiger.

Not only were they being hunted by the enemy, they were being hunted by a predator that was at home in the jungle and had no fear of Adkins and his fellow soldiers.

The book relates a captivating story that readers will have a hard time putting down. 

Is that ‘Junk’ in Your Attic or Basement Worth a Fortune?

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(StatePoint) From baseball cards and sports equipment to postcards and toys, is that “junk” in your attic or basement dusty treasure or just dusty? We’ve all heard of families getting rich from the sale of rare memorabilia. So how can you tell if your stuff is valuable and how can you sell it, if it is?

“The general rule is that the older the item, the more valuable it is. 1980 is not old. 1960 is kind of old. 1910 is old,” says Al Crisafulli, Auction Director at Love of the Game Auctions, an internet sports auction house that has helped many families identify and sell valuable items.

In one instance, Crisafulli determined that a family’s baseball bat that spent decades beside their front door to protect from intruders, was actually used by Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig — and Love of the Game Auctions sold it for them for more than $430,000.

He is offering these tips to help determine if your items are valuable:

Baseball Cards

Cards from the 1960s and earlier are collectible, and those from before the 1940s can be extremely pricey. Do they have sharp corners, no creases and retain original gloss? Do they depict star players and Hall of Famers? A Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner or Mickey Mantle will sell for more than non-stars.

With particularly old cards from the 1880s and early 1900s, look for tobacco and candy brands, such as Old Judge, Piedmont, Sweet Caporal or American Caramel. Unopened packs from almost any era can be valuable.

Memorabilia & Equipment

Look for old advertising posters depicting sports stars and food, tobacco or sporting goods brands. This doesn’t mean ads torn from magazines, but those used as store displays and for other purposes. Tin signs are highly collectible from the 1900s into the 1960s, but low-quality reproductions aren’t. Pre-1950s catcher’s masks, baseball gloves and bats can be valuable, especially those endorsed by star players. Condition is important but used equipment can be valuable.

When you go to sell sports items, consider a specialty auction, such as Love of the Game, which has the expertise to properly research sports pieces, and maintains lists of bidders specializing in this area so it can get top dollar for these items. More information is available at loveofthegameauctions.com.

Postcards

Postcards of your vacation destinations likely are worthless. But those depicting famous people, such as movie star cards and vintage baseball postcards, can be valuable. Look for early “real photo” postcards from the 1900s through the 1940s, which are photographs printed on postcard backs. No matter the type, the older, the better, and the more famous, the better.

Old Halloween or Christmas postcards from the early 1900s can be expensive. The same goes for many intricate “hold-to-light” postcards, where portions of scenes light up when held to strong light.

Toys

Look for famous characters, such as early Walt Disney items, superheroes, Star Wars, etc. The most prized toys are those in original condition with no broken pieces and paint intact. And if you have original boxes, you might strike gold!

So, while you’re cleaning that attic, basement or garage, don’t rush to purge. Before throwing out old “junk,” determine if it’s valuable!

The Typewriter

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It made that …rat-a-tat-tat-tat..sound that was so very satisfying. 

Satisfying for some people. For story tellers, journalist, letter writers, and poets. 

For those up against a hard deadline for their term paper or homework assignment, the sound conjures up disquieting memories.

That sound comes from only one source…the typewriter.

Believe it or not there are many on our planet who still use the old fashioned typewriter. 

Actor Tom Hanks uses one. Actually, Hanks has over 250 in his personal collection. He says that 90% of them are in good working condition. 

Musician John Mayer uses one.

My good friend and fellow Jefferson County historian Jon Harris uses one. I get typed letters from him quite often. It is a reminder of a simpler time. 

In Berkley, California there is a small shop that sells and repairs typewriters. 

The famed store is known as California Typewriter.

Herbert L. Permillion, III purchased the store in 1981. 

By trade he is an IBM man who serviced Selectric Typewriters for almost 20 years. 

It is a family owned and operated business. 

Their master typewriter repairman is a man by the name of Kenneth Alexander, a Smith Corona man. He has been working on typewriters for over 38 years.

The store is featured in a film applicably named California Typewriter.

The Show features Tom Hanks as well as other notable people. 

Some sources say the typewriter dates back to 1714. However, the first typewriter that actually worked was produced by a man named Pellegrino Turri, circa 1808. He was an Italian and he produced his machine for Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzano—she was blind. 

Ironically, the first successful commercial production of the typewriter was facilitated by a Danish pastor Rasmus Malling-Hansen in the year 1870. 

The Sholes & Glidden Type Writer was the first production company to achieve success in America. Their machine went into production in 1873 and was on the market by 1874. 

The company was owned  by Christopher L. Sholes. He was a newspaperman and a poet and thankfully an inventor. 

Typewriters since then have advanced and helped change the way individuals work and communicate with one another. 

Sam Shephard, who is another actor/writer featured in the movie, California Typewriter, crafted his scripts and plays using an old fashioned typewriter. 

Shepherd says there is something tactile about using a typewriter.

Bob Dylan wrote some of his songs on a typewriter. 

I suppose if the typewriter had been popular during his life, Abraham Lincoln would have used one. 

Sadly, using a typewriter is going the way of the Abacus. 

Some argue that the computer is more efficient. Perhaps. 

But I wonder if by using one we are loosing touch with who we were as a society?

Maybe I’m just being nostalgic. 

I just wonder what technology will erase next? The pencil?

Abraham Lincoln, an unlikely president

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Doris Kearns Goodwin in her book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, writes that Ralph Waldo Emerson found at that Abraham Lincoln had been elected, he said that “the ‘comparatively unknown name of Lincoln’ had been selected: ‘we heard the result coldly and sadly. It seemed too rash, on a purely local reputation, to build so grave a trust in such anxious times.’”

In other words, not everyone was happy to find out he had been elected.

Obviously, most of those living in the south were not happy about his election.

His appearance was not inspiring.

He didn’t come from a well known family, nor did he come from wealth.

What he did have going for him was his ability to communicate.

It is said that he could disarm a room filled with anger simply by telling one of his folksy homespun tales that usually made an understated point.

Once he was elected, states began leaving the union. Eventually 11 states would form what became the confederacy.

Many historians agree that Lincoln was the right man at the right time to lead the country through the civil war.

He brought the country back together, although he paid for it with his life.

That being said, if we were alive during time of the election of 1860 many of us would have grave doubts about him and many of us would probably not vote for him.

He had very little experience in politics.

Most of his work experience was as a country lawyer.

Lincoln came from humble beginnings and knew hardship and heartache through the early years of his life.

He was self taught and had almost no formal education.

The year he was elected president there were actually four men from four different parties in the race. Today his face is one of four on Mount Rushmore.

At the republican convention, the men who went to the event in Chicago to nominate him, knew that he would not win the first ballot. Their goal was to simply keep  his name alive until they could recruit enough delegates to get him nominated.

Today, his image is not only on Mt. Rushmore, but on the penny and the five dollar bill.

It could be argued that Lincoln’s life experience of overcoming obstacles to achieve his goals prepared  him for the obstacles he would face while living in the White House.

If his life had been ideal and easy, he may not have had the tenacity needed to become a student of war and lead the north to victory. It is said that during the civil war that he read every book on warfare he could find in the Library of Congress.

He had a determination not to ever give up. It made him the right man for the job of president at the right moment in history.

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