Episode 47: President Abraham Lincoln

Welcome to Slow American English, the podcast for learners of American English. I’m your host, Karren Tolliver.

This is episode number 47: President Abraham Lincoln

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Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865) was the 16th president of the United States. He was president during the Civil War, which I spoke about last month. To fully understand Lincoln’s presidency, you should listen to last month’s podcast first.

Lincoln has become a mythical figure in America. Here are some common facts about Abraham Lincoln that are part of American culture and language:

  • Abraham Lincoln’s family was very poor. He was born in a one-room log cabin in Kentucky.
  • As a child, Lincoln attended school on only three occasions and only for a few months each time. In total, he had about one year of formal schooling. However, he read everything he could and taught himself many subjects.
  • He had many jobs as a young man. He worked on a farm, he split rails for fences, and he was a shop owner. He was a soldier, a postmaster and a surveyor. He also worked on a boat on the Mississippi River.
  • He and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, had four sons. However, only one of them lived long enough to become an adult.
  • Abraham Lincoln was always calm, very ambitious, extremely smart and focused and very patriotic. He is known for his wisdom and humor, and he was a very good storyteller.
  • Abraham Lincoln was very tall (6’4”), thin, awkward and homely. He had a beard and often wore a stovepipe hat and black coat.
  • His picture appears on the US one-cent coin and on the five-dollar bill.
  • At 24, Lincoln was elected to the Illinois General Assembly, the state’s legislature.
  • Abraham Lincoln studied law books and became a lawyer when he was 27. Without going to university, he passed the bar exam, which is the certification lawyers must have. He practiced law in Springfield, IL, the state’s capital. He was a very good lawyer. As part of his law career, he traveled a lot while working for the Illinois state and US circuit courts.
  • Because of his fair treatment of people, he earned the nickname Honest Abe. Because he freed enslaved people with the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln is known as the Great Emancipator, too.
  • Lincoln believed that the USA should remain one country and that it was his responsibility to keep the Union together. He was also strongly against slavery. When he was elected, some southern states seceded from the Union and formed the Confederacy. Then came the Civil War.
  • While Lincoln was president, the first income tax was put in place, the university system was begun, and the Homestead Act was passed, which gave land in the West to settlers. Also while in office, Lincoln created the Department of Agriculture and made Thanksgiving a federal holiday.
  • Lincoln gave many famous speeches.
    • His Gettysburg Address begins, “Fourscore 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.”
    • In another famous political speech he borrowed from the Bible and said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” which means he believed the only way for the US to survive was to be one nation, not two.
    • Lincoln’s second inaugural speech is inscribed on the wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. In part, Lincoln said that the US should rebuild itself after the war, “with malice toward none; with charity for all…”
  • Lincoln served as president for only four years, from 1861 to 1865. While watching a play at Ford’s Theater in Washington, DC., Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, a supporter of the Confederacy. The Civil War had ended only five days before. Abraham Lincoln was 56 years old when he died. He is buried in Springfield, IL.

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That’s the podcast for this time. Slow American English is written and produced by Karren Tolliver. Copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

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This has been Slow American English. I’m Karren Tolliver. Thank you for listening.