Burr Ridge mayor spends 10 years studying 16th president

A decade ago, a book on Abraham Lincoln brought forth a zeal for the man so great that a Burr Ridge resident began collecting Lincoln items and eventually set out across the country in search of liberty, Lincoln, God, unity and patriotism.

Burr Ridge Mayor Mickey Straub has an Abraham Lincoln talking action figure, a Lincoln coloring book and cuff links made of pennies.

He has bricks from the David Wills house, where President Lincoln stayed and finished revising the Gettysburg Address the night before dedicating Soldiers National Cemetery.

Straub has two throw blankets created in tribute to the president and a Lincoln puppet.

He even drove a Lincoln when touring the country delivering the Gettysburg Address in every state capitol, visiting all 50 states in 50 days.

“It’s been an amazing journey,” Straub said of his fascination with Lincoln, which began while reading “Lincoln: An Illustrated Biography” in 2004. “I read the book and was intrigued with him.”

Straub, who is president of Sales Activity Management, Inc., a Burr Ridge firm which helps sales professionals, creates a Cliffs Notes version of any book he reads.

When he read the book that kicked off his Lincoln fascination, he wound up with 12 pages of notes. While he noted some not so desirable characteristics of the president — “critical of fat women,” “hair was rarely combed” and “clothes were often wrinkled and poor fitting” — he found plenty of admirable traits as well, such as “honest, never lied,” “took responsibility” and “a thinker, destined for politics.”

Straub found himself buying and reading everything about Lincoln he could get his hands on. He became fascinated with the Gettysburg Address, one of the great speeches in American history. He noted that not once in the 272-word speech is the word “I” used.

“There are 10 we’s, three us’s and two our’s,” Straub said. “There are 15 times he speaks of unity. There have been a lot of speeches given by presidents, but in this one he shied away from using ‘I.’ He continued to think of the country as a team, as ‘us.’ It was ‘us,’ not ‘I’ and ‘we,’ not ‘me.’”

He said a similar unifying speech is needed today as our country is so divided politically. Straub noted President Barack Obama took extra steps to pattern himself after Lincoln — quoting Lincoln, launching his presidential campaign from Springfield, even taking a train trip from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. at the start of his presidency as Lincoln did. But Obama, Straub noted, could not even carve time out of his schedule to be at the event in Gettysburg last fall celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.

“If I were to write a book, it would be ‘The Hijacking of Lincoln: The Audacity of Obama,’” Straub said.

Straub’s love of Lincoln has become so well known that friends and associates bring him items linked to the 16th president. Straub doesn’t spend his free time searching eBay for Lincoln items and doesn’t have anything specific that he is still looking for as part of his Lincoln collection, although a nice bust of the president would be welcomed (for those of you who give gifts for Lincoln’s birthday or Presidents Day.)

As well as being a Lincoln lover, Straub also is a car aficionado — having driven 88 cars in his lifetime and having built a garage at his business for two of his prized possessions.

“I am a car guy in other ways too,” Straub proudly said. “I am a Christian American Republican, in that order. I want people to know that you can be Christian and that you can be patriotic.”

He said he wants his 50 Capitols tour to serve as an inspiration to others to get them to pursue their dreams.

“Life is not about standing around, not doing anything,” Straub said. “It’s not able not taking action because you might have regrets. I am especially aiming at the (baby) boomers. If you have a dream, go for it.”

Straub is also fascinated with the life and presidency of Ronald Reagan. While he has some Reagan books and some jelly beans, his Reagan items do not mirror his Lincoln collection. But give him time.

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