The Lasting Legacy Of Lincoln

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
You'd be forgiven if you were Lincoln-ed out by now. Barack Obama's fascination with the 16th president of the United States has been well documented. More than 10,000 books have been written about Abraham Lincoln. And the information keeps coming. We've been working on a story for Thursday night's Evening News to mark the anniversary of Lincoln's 200th birthday.

It's fair to ask: Why? Hasn't enough been said? Aren't there other, more worthy subjects we could and should shift our attention to?

I've asked the same questions myself – more than once – but I keep going back. The mystique of the remaining Lincoln mysteries pulls me in. I'm no Lincoln scholar, to be sure, but I'm an avid admirer. His background. His successes and failures. His reformations. His internal turmoil. His otherwordly political acumen. His role as a husband and father. I've spent hours devouring Lincoln literature over the years, and I know I'm not alone. For some reason, Lincoln seems to communicate with so many of us. We still find endless ways to relate.

The reasons for this are complicated, I suppose – just like the man himself – but to state the obvious: Lincoln, more than any other person, ensured the survival of the Union, the full and complete United States of America, this ambitious and extraordinary and enduring experiment that's now 233 years old. A Newsweek article by Christopher Hitchens recently that put it best: "No Lincoln, no nation." Perfect. If you care about this nation, then it's never a bad time to learn more about its (arguably) most famous and most important citizen.

For our report on the Evening News tonight, we'll talk to a collector coordinating a new exhibit in New York City. More than half the Lincoln collectibles on display have never been seen by the public – until now. We're going to show you the highlights, a guided tour from Jon Mann, the man behind "Abraham Lincoln in New York: A Rail Splitter Bicentennial Celebration."

It's not just memorabilia. There are all those books: the wonderful, encompassing biography "Lincoln" by David Herbert Donald; the sharp, concise, just-released "Lincoln: A Presidential Life" (less than 100 pages) by James McPherson; and maybe my favorite, "Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America," by Gary Wills – a masterful, historical deconstruction of that famous speech. Lincoln was a lawyer and a politician, yes, but I always thought of him first and foremost as a wordsmith, a prodigious consumer and supplier of the English language, a man who processed impossibly complicated questions and then produced incredibly elegant prose to explain our condition.

I won't even approach the same universe where Lincoln's level of sublime elegance exists, and it would be impossible for us to capture the man in full in our report, but I hope in a small way we contribute something worthwhile to the mountain of Lincoln's legacy. I know I enjoyed learning a few details that I didn't know before.

And after the story airs, I'm sure I won't be done. I'll keep dipping back into Lincoln's living treasure chest, off and on, time and again – for enjoyment, for instruction, and for constant inspiration.

  • Jeff Glor

    Jeff Glor was named anchor of the Sunday edition of the "CBS Evening News" in January 2012 and Special Correspondent for "CBS This Morning" in November 2011.