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What’s in a Name?

(This was written in the Alumni Lincoln Log, July Edition and hopes to explain why we fight so hard for this name and this school)

I’ll be honest, I never really gave thought to the name, Abraham Lincoln High School.  Through the four years of high school and the  many years it’s been since I’ve left, I never thought about what that name actually means.  That really did change towards the end of the last year and it may very well be something I, and we, think about again later again this year. 

The way we think about the high school that we all attended is based on what we did there, the people we met there and the stories we have to share from there.  If I tell someone I went to Abraham Lincoln High School in the early 2000s, someone might mention the Thundering Mustang Rally, the Brotherhood/Sisterhood Assembly, the breakdancers outside of room 137 that never seemed to leave, Varsity Gold Show Choir, the school-wide musical,  and so on and so forth.  The funny thing about all of this is that I never once saw President Abraham Lincoln singing YMCA, or dancing with a bunch of teachers to Gangnam Style.

The students that went to Abraham Lincoln High School are not in any way shape or form an image of the former president himself.  In the same way that the students from George Washington High School are not in any way shape or form an image of George Washington, or Galileo, or Lowell.  We have no ties to these historical figures, so the challenge is to explain why these names are so important to us.

It’s not as much the person President Abraham Lincoln that means so much as it is the name Abraham Lincoln High School.  It’s identity.  It’s a part of me, it’s a part of you, it’s a part of This City.   We don’t owe our life experiences to President Lincoln, we owe our life experiences to Abraham Lincoln High School.  We don’t have passionate loyalty for President Lincoln as much as we have passionate loyalty for Abraham Lincoln High School

Some people may not understand why some of us will fight so hard to keep something from our past.  They will push us aside like our opinion doesn’t matter because our time is up.  We don’t go to the school anymore so why should we care?  On the surface these might be valid points, but it invalidates our experiences.  It invalidates our history.  And most importantly:  it erases a part of us.  So when someone says, “it’s only a name”, we should tell them what’s in that name, Abraham Lincoln High School.

Jonathan Woo

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