Lincoln’s Legacy: From Gettysburg to Heredia

The Lincoln School, Heredia – February 26, 2016

Ambassador Haney Remarks

-as prepared-

Good morning! I am pleased to join you all today to celebrate the life and legacy of the 16th president of the United States, this school’s namesake, President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln would have been 207 years old on February 12th this year, so we have put together a belated birthday celebration for him today. The posters and books the Lincoln School and our U.S. Embassy have selected for you will give you a more intimate picture of our former president. Almost two centuries have passed since Lincoln led the United States of America—and a lot has happened since then. After 200 years, you may be asking, “Why should we still celebrate Lincoln? How is he relevant today? He didn’t even have an iPhone, or Snapchat…”

We celebrate Lincoln because his principles are timeless: scholarship, hard work, collaboration, and equality. We celebrate him because his commitment to his ideals, and his willingness to challenge the status quo, was an example for the ages. We celebrate him because his leadership in the time of our country’s greatest crisis led to a stronger union and the abolishment of slavery. Lincoln established a precedent of equality and laid the groundwork for civil rights efforts that continue today. Particularly in February, Black History Month, we recognize the vital role of our 16th president in ending slavery in the United States and working toward equality for all.

Lincoln’s legacy is larger than life. The distance between his world, in 1865, and our world today may seem vast to you. But that is the very reason we should celebrate him, to remember his life, his accomplishments, and to internalize lessons that he taught all of us. With these posters and books, we want you to get to know Abraham Lincoln as a real person, a person like you and me. As a self-made man. As a team player. As a leader. As a work-in-progress, throughout his life and his presidency.

The Lincoln School’s philosophy is “excellence through innovation, integrity, and leadership.” Through your studies, you are internalizing the very tenets by which President Lincoln lived. Although you are in high school today, very soon you will be out in the world, working to make a difference. Today is a chance to think about what it means to be great, in the classroom, at home, in society. Today is a chance to consider how we, like Lincoln, can develop and test our own ideas, realize our ambitions, and work together to implement them for progress. While most of us won’t become the President of the United States, we can follow in Lincoln’s footsteps to achieve greatness in our chosen paths, whatever that may be.

As students in International Baccalaureate programs, I congratulate you for challenging yourselves to develop the skills you will need to become the leaders of tomorrow. The creativity, problem-solving skills, and perseverance that you apply here in the classroom will bring you benefits in both your work and social life for years to come. As students learning in English, you have the gift of understanding Abraham Lincoln’s writings in his native language. You are developing the gift of communication, which will open doors for you around the world. I invite you to consider a course of study in the United States after you graduate, at a university, a community college, or an institute, to challenge yourself abroad, to hone your skills in the English language, and to fully immerse yourselves in our culture and society, which Lincoln’s legacy helped create, and which President Obama continues to this day.

This celebration and exhibition is just a starting point, a background story on a great man, to inspire you to use the tools you are gaining here to become the best global citizens you can be. From Gettysburg to Heredia, almost 200 years after he led the United States, President Lincoln is still very relevant to our life and times. I want all of you to reflect on the possibilities, and the promise, of his legacy for your lives today and tomorrow. And I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes attributed to Lincoln, as an appeal to you, in your varied futures: “Whatever you are, be a good one.” Thank you.