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Why Mr. Lincoln had Whiskers and Why Howard Dean is our Easter Bunny

July 27th, 2004 · No Comments

Note: the content of this blog post is not intended as an endorsement of anything or anyone except silliness

The other day the girls were cheering at the dinner table “Bush! Kerry!” and then they added “Dean!” Even Elisabeth got into the act. She can’t say many words but somehow she could try to say “Dee!”. I was instantly reminded of Randy’s comment on this post , explaining why he had 3 kids…

I realized that I had yet to bring my daughters into reality. They still believed Howard Dean was a candidate for President. They were living disconnected from the truth.

Some families sponsor stories of tooth fairies that leave presents under pillows, the Easter Bunny that hides eggs or a Santa Claus that deposits presents beneath a tree. Ted and I haven’t raised our kids to believe in any of these cultural traditions. It’s been important to us that they know reality not fantasy. But I realized that we’ve allowed our kids to live in a world that is not true. For our family, Howard Dean is the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and Tooth Fairy.

Of course, there are many differences between Howard Dean and the Easter Bunny. Howard Dean was a Presidential candidate at one point, unlike the cultural fable of an enormous religious rabbit. For our daughters though, Howard Dean Presidential Candidate is as real to them as we are. As real to them as the Easter Bunny is to some little girls. Somehow, I have to break it to them gently. In the way parents cuddle their kids and tell them Santa isn’t real and that the Easter Bunny didn’t hide the eggs behind the sofa, I have to tell them that Dean isn’t running any more.

A few days later the girls and I happened to read the book Mr. Lincoln’s Whiskers by Karen B. Winnick. It’s a story surrounding the exchange of letters between eleven-year-old Grace Bedell of Westfield, New York and presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln in October 1860. The letters are real, historical fact, and printed in the book, while other parts of the picture book are fiction. Bedell wrote Lincoln suggesting that he should grow a beard which would help him win the election. At the end of the story, she got to meet the man, who had been elected president by then..and who had taken her advice.

A few points of difference between 1860 and today struck me:

  • if a politician were to grow a beard, we would know it right away and we wouldn’t have to wait for a train stop and chance meeting as Grace Bedell did in the story.
  • the emphasis on appearance, image and sex appeal: the ladies like whiskers, wrote Bedell in her attempt to persuade the presidential candidate.
  • unlike my daughters who are living after suffrage, Grace Bedell knew she wouldn’t be able to vote as an adult. The only power women had was through their influence on men. Quotes from her letter to Lincoln are below:

    I have got 4 brothers…and if you let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you….

    All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President.

    If I was a man I would vote for you.

  • the power of boldness and a little girl.

    I am a little girl only eleven years old but I want you should be President of the United States very much so I hope you won’t think me very bold to write to such a great man as you are.

  • the effect she was able to have on the presidential candidate through her simple letter…he did grow a beard!

    Reading the book I was amazed at the power one little girl could have. On the one hand it was depressing to think that all a woman or girl could do was to try to influence men, without a right of her own to vote. However I thought it was empowering to see a little girl persuade presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln and change the mind of this future Emancipator with her simple letter.

    So, I wonder… what would happen if my daughters wrote Howard Dean a letter?

    He may be the Easter Bunny for our family. But maybe someday our girls will see him roll eggs across a lawn…like Mr. Lincoln may have done…

  • Tags: books