In a 1930 letter, President Herbert Hoover referred to the qualities of Abraham Lincoln’s leadership as “touchstones of democracy and of practical government.” In more recent correspondence, President Barack Obama called Lincoln the president “whose moral compass pointed firm and true.”
The personally signed letters on White House stationery extolling America’s 16th president are part of Milner Library’s Harold K. Sage Lincoln Collection. Sage donated nearly 2,600 Lincoln items to Milner in 1979. The Hoover letter was among them, obtained as a result of a request Sage sent.
Current Milner librarian Maureen Brunsdale followed the tradition and wrote to the White House, hoping Obama would share his thoughts about Lincoln’s legacy. Obama obliged, writing that Lincoln is one of his personal heroes.
Obama reflects on Lincoln’s address at Gettysburg during the Civil War. “Because of the sacrifice of the soldiers resting there, and that of our beloved Lincoln, our Union stands indivisible since the time the Great Emancipator said it was so,” Obama wrote. He then flashes forward to modern terrorism, recession, climate change, nuclear proliferation and other challenges that threaten the nation.
“I was so excited to receive President Obama’s letter for the Sage Collection,” Brunsdale said. “It so eloquently brings a president of the past into contemporary times in a very substantial way.”
Words of admiration for Lincoln penned by Calvin Coolidge and Dwight Eisenhower are also part of the collection, which now has nearly 6,000 items. Students and scholars researching Lincoln may view the items in Milner’s Special Collections. For more information call (309) 438-3527.