A little known holiday is celebrated in this region today.  This year marks 150 years since President Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act, which freed more than 3,000 slaves in the District of Columbia.  To celebrate, and to continue our roving tour of American history on the East Coast, we went to the Lincoln Cottage yesterday.

This is the house that President Lincoln used as his summer White House.   Located in NW DC, just some 3 miles from the White House, in 1862 it was a remote and wooded area that offered distance, coolness, and some respite for the president during the war years.  It was also the site of the Soldiers Home, and it remains a Soldiers Home to this day.

What was so inspiring about our visit was to be in the same rooms where Lincoln struggled with the complexities of the issues of freeing the slaves while at the same time trying to preserve the Union.  We sat in the very room where he thought, read, and wrote.  We walked the halls he walked.  The walls – the place, the space – remain a great testament to a great man, and his spirit can be felt there.

Our visit there reminded me again that nothing is easy.  Freedom always comes with a cost, a responsibility, a need for some action.  We should not hesitate to take a stand for freedom and equality for all people.  Nor should we hesitate from speaking out that the rights and freedoms this country is founded on are rights and freedoms for everyone – even those who may be very different from ourselves in their background, beliefs, or way of life.

Freedom to live the way we see fit and in the manner we choose is not just for a few.  President Lincoln taught us that.  May we honor Lincoln’s great legacy by being broad minded and tolerant enough to realize that everyone does not have to be like us or live life like us to enjoy the freedoms this country offers.

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