I am an American who lived her early years in Europe. I went to school in England, Italy and The Netherlands. My father was an American and my mother is English. They decided to move back to America (where my sister and I were born) and make a permanent home.

I started my American education toward the end of the third grade. I really was clueless about American history. The first assignment I was given was a blank map of the United States. I was told to fill in each state and hand it in the next day. This was a great idea for me, as I needed to learn the states and just how big America was. But when I handed in the map  I was told I would have to redo it. I had written in the state names correctly, but I had not PRINTED the names. In Europe we used long hand for everything and I had never learned to print. The other big shock was that I quickly learned that I did not have to stand each time that I spoke in class. In my other schools, we always had to stand when we were  speaking. But in America, things were a lot looser and a lot less formal.

One of the very first books that I read after moving to America was a biography of Abraham Lincoln. He was the first president that I was really interested in and I loved the story of him as a young boy and how he succeeded in life. I also started reading the series Little house on the prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Those books were a great introduction to American history.

As I got older I became more interested in the Civil War, slavery and abolitionists. I have been reading all about the new Spielberg movie, Lincoln, and I was very eager to see it. It did not disappoint me at all, it was everything the critics said and even more.

While the film focuses on a specific time in Lincoln’s presidency, it really gives us the man. It shows us the frustration of not only being president, but how much patience is needed in being a leader. We see Lincoln as a husband, a father and as a practical man who has great vision. How many times have we seen politicians who actually listen? There are many scenes in this film where he is simply listening.

We watch this film and know that this is a great man…we know how great a leader he is. But we also see his humanity, we see him become small to be with others. He is on the floor  with his young son, he does not stand over others, and he sits to be at their eye level. He tilts his head to see faces and so they can also see him. His gentleness and his moments of quiet are the scenes of beauty in this film. Spielberg is introducing us to not only history, to a president, but also to a man. Daniel Day-Lewis never acts in this film, he IS Lincoln. He simply is.

I loved reading about Abraham Lincoln when I was a child and I loved finding him again in this film.

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  • Aledys Ver  On January 2, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    Whenever the topic of our school days comes up while talking to my husband, we always find how different things work or used to work in our respective cultures. One of the things my husband always finds strange is that we were always expected to stand up whenever a teacher entered a class, wait for he or she to greet us and then sit down. He also finds it strange that in our schools in Argentina children first hoist the flag and either sing to it or say the allegiance vows before entering the class every morning – I understand that is a big no-no here in the NL (enough chanting, saluting, marching and all that during the years of nazi occupation, I’ve been told).
    It’s good to hear you enjoyed the Spielberg films; I really can’t wait to go see it!

  • Jean Langley  On January 4, 2013 at 3:15 am

    Well, Jane, in my American school we always had to stand to recite as well. But then it was a Catholic school and I’m a few years older than you. We learned, or tried to learn, how to project our voices as well, a very useful thing to know. We had over 60 kids in a classroom back in those baby boomer days.

    Anyway, I agree with you about Daniel Day-Lewis. I wish history could have been taught in such a way as to show the human side of our leaders. I hated history in school, because I couldn’t humanize it. In the movie (well, at least past the part where I took a nap — not the movie’s fault) I got so caught up in Lincoln’s courageous battle and the aftermath, I forgot all about what happened to him at the end. It came almost as a surprise.

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