Since President Lincoln’s Cottage is a Home for Brave Ideas, we asked staff to reflect on the past ten years: what is a brave idea they have had or witnessed? Read on below:
One of the most brave things I’ve witnessed in my life was watching my dad retire from the military. It was difficult for him to step out of the career and culture he’d been immersed in since he was 18. The only other job he had had was working at a McDonalds in high school. He spent his nights going to college to finish his bachelors degree, was raising four boys on his own, and now had to try to find employment in the civilian world. He had an incredible attitude and bravery that I admired as a kid, and try to emulate every day as an adult. We still call him Luke Duke, one of his nicknames when he was overseas. We use it as an epithet of his tremendous courage as a soldier and a father.
While I won’t go into detail to respect the privacy of those I know, by far the bravest thing I’ve seen over the past 10 years is seeing people choose to be who they truly are, even in the face of intense scrutiny and prejudice. The level of fortitude that requires is awe-inspiring to me.
My brave idea is inspired by Lincoln’s commute. While living at the Cottage, Lincoln commuted daily through the city of Washington. His commute made him accessible to wounded soldiers, self-emancipated men, women, and children, and everyday citizens like Walt Whitman. Lincoln used these interactions to listen to people. He wanted to know more about people’s experiences and ideas. I want to take more time to truly listen to others. I believe listening leads to understanding, which can help us solve the world’s problems.
During my adult life, both of my parents became US citizens. It took courage for them to come to this country. They barely spoke the language, weren’t familiar with the culture, and didn’t really know anyone, not even each other. I’m incredibly proud of how upstanding, generous, and civically engaged my parents are. They worked hard to be the best Americans I know.
In 2012 I decided to quit my job, leave everything familiar, and move across the world, by myself, to each English in South Korea. At first a few members of my family weren’t exactly thrilled— “what will this do to your career?” “But it’s so far away, can’t you go to Europe instead?” “Won’t you be lonely?”– it took a lot of courage to stick to my guns and focus on what would be the best for me. It was an absolute leap of faith but it led me on the path to learning more about the world and myself than I could get in any classroom. While scary and overwhelming at first, it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
From a personal perspective, I witnessed the brave ideas during the 2008 Presidential campaign that hope and change are positive things for a country to strive for, and that pushing to make this country work for everyone is a winning political strategy.
From a professional perspective, I think it was really brave for President Lincoln’s Cottage to become an independent 501(c)3. Though we could have been complacent with our previous level of success, we decided to push the envelope and become the best organization we can.
I think anyone who has ever tried to eat or cook something new certainly had to be brave. Even if you know a food isn’t going to be toxic, until you’ve tasted it you truly don’t know what it tastes like. Experimenting with new flavors – not only for the very first time in history, but simply for a first time in a person’s life – requires a great deal of individual bravery.