Judge every celebrated American, from Lincoln to Grant, in the context of their times

Any historic figure judged by the standards of today is sure to fall short.

SHARE Judge every celebrated American, from Lincoln to Grant, in the context of their times

Union General Ulysses S. Grant, astride a horse, in Chicago’s Lincoln Park.


The current flurry of concern about the appropriateness of monuments on public display seems to have begun with people questioning why we have statues of generals who fought on the side of the Confederacy in the Civil War. The same attention then was brought to the names of military posts. Yet now in a zeal to wash history of anything or anyone who had a background or experience in some aspect of slavery, it’s fashionable to target our nation’s Founding Fathers, 15th and 16th century explorers, Union generals in the Civil War and even President Abraham Lincoln.

Scrutiny of monuments to Confederate personnel is justified. These men made conscious decisions to openly revolt against the government of the United States. No honor or recognition is due them.

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The others, however — from Lincoln to Christopher Columbus — deserve to be judged within the context of their time and circumstance. Their decisions and actions have to be framed in the context of 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th century norms. No individual maintains a spotless reputation or is faultless. 

There is no justifying the horrendous way slaves and American Indians were treated, yet to minimize the contributions of Americans like Lincoln, holding them to a standard that could not be maintained during their own time and place in history, is not balanced or fair. Measured against what is acceptable today, of course they fall short.

Judge them within the context of their times and the overall “good” they did.

Phil Scully, Crest Hill

Failing our school kids

We are failing our kids.

Unlike many parents in Chicago, my wife and I have the resources and job flexibility necessary to make the best of the fact that our two kids have not been able to set foot in their public school for almost a year. The prolonged fight between City Hall and the Chicago Teachers Union was disheartening; it was perceived by many people as putting the needs of children second to the interests of others — and all for the sake of getting just a small fraction of students back in their classrooms, many of them for just two days a week.

That small fraction does not include the vast majority of students from Chicago’s most under-resourced communities. We can and must do better. We can and must get our hardworking teachers vaccinated immediately and get our students — all of them — back into classrooms five days a week. There’s no more time to waste.

Joshua Boggioni, Old Irving Park

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