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The following rap verse was written as the author's class presentation for "Abraham Lincoln and Leadership," a summer institute for middle and high school teachers that was sponsored by Louisiana State University at Shreveport, the Abraham Lincoln Association, the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, and the Shreveport Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

You ask who's the greatest of the
presidents,
The finest of all the White House residents.
Jefferson and Washington, most will agree
Had to rank high, maybe in the top three.
Progressive and powerful, many millions felt—
Two worthy men, both named Roosevelt.
But look me in the eye and I'll tell you without blinking,
This Southerner prefers Abraham Lincoln.
He had a weird beard, and his legs were too long;
He hadn't much schooling, and his humor was all wrong.
But when it came to courage and integrity,
He outshined every doughface mediocrity.
He knew a House divided was bound to fall,
When his party called on him, he always stood tall.
As one by one the Southern states began to secede,
This prairie lawyer calculated how to proceed.
The shells fell at Sumter; he called for volunteers,
Not knowing that the civil war would last four years.
He led our war-torn country with honesty and bravery,
Stayed the course, won the war, and ended slavery.
It took a lot of guts to announce Emancipation,
An important step in his plan to save the nation.
His leadership was strong, his accomplishments many;
Surely he deserves a better coin than the penny.Page  [End Page 41]
So who's your favorite prexy; would you like to debate?
Who served our nation best, who was truly great?
Maybe it was Tricky Dick; maybe Old Hickory?
I'll just take the author of the Union victory.
Tippecanoe or Benjamin, pick either Harrison;
Put them next to Lincoln, there's no comparison.
They say the buck stopped with Harry Truman,
With all his fire and brimstone, he was merely human.
No Massachusetts playboy like JFK,
No liberal Texas shyster like LBJ,
No drunken Andy Johnson, no Tennessee tailor,
No witless Jimmy Carter, no peanut farmer failure.
You can have your cigar smoker and your whiskey drinker;
I'll take Honest Abe, a sober clear-eyed thinker.
A prez can be a poker-playin' tobacco-spitter,
But he can't hold a candle to the Rail-splitter.
Yes, Jefferson was brilliant and Woodrow Wilson wise,
He and Teddy Roosevelt won the Nobel Peace prize.
But only Lincoln fought a war with the Southern section,
Taking time out to run for reelection.
You can have the demagogues and all those fakers,
Just give me the Confederacy's undertaker.
He wasn't an aristocrat, a pompous big-wig;
Just a simple frontier lawyer, a conservative Whig.
He loved to read his Bible; he was close to God.
He must have been a saint to live with Mary Todd.
Practical and tactical, political realist;
Lover of democracy, Republican idealist.
A man of people, he was truly accessible;
He never wavered in the conflict irrepressible.
With a squabbling cabinet and the Copperhead press,
How'd he find the time to write the Gettysburg Address?
In '64 he went out and beat George McClellan,
In '65 the Southerners gave up and stopped rebellin'. Page  [End Page 42]
Teapot Dome and Watergate: Republican boners;
But Lincoln and his party still smashed the slave-owners.
Yes, FDR stood up to Hitler and the Japanese,
But first Abe had to bring the Rebels to their knees.
The father of our country was George Washington,
Who else could have saved the day in 1861?
If you love America and think it's a great nation,
Remember all that Lincoln did for its preservation.
So who comes out the winner of our rating game?
Sorry guys, but Eisenhower's not the name.
Not Ike, Mike.
Not Tom, Mom.
It's Abe, Babe. Page  [End Page 43]