I use discussion of Abraham Lincoln's life as a springboard for comparing the past with the present. It's almost a universal truth these last 18 years...kids like learning about our 16th president. His story resonates with kids, rich and poor, black and white, tall and short,etc. His likeable geekiness shines through all of the children's biographies I read to my classes. In one activity today, we compared elements of Abe's life with our own, including the famous one room log house, his non-traditional family (stepmother and stepsiblings), his tendency to sneak away from his chores to read, and the hard, physical labor he did to help his family (chop down trees, plow the fields, etc.).
When they see his likeness on the penny and the five dollar bill, they really understand his historical importance!! A few years ago, one of my boys said "What money has George Bush on it? THAT'S how you know he's a big deal."
Attention, Karl Rove....
Lastly, one of my big hearted boys today swore that if he lived in Lincoln's time, he would have been a bodyguard to protect Abe from the bad guy.
You have to love 'em.