Only one was Illinois-born (in an apartment above a Tampico bakery/tavern). The two lawyers came up through the muck of Illinois politics; paths to power for the other two were the Army and Hollywood.
Pres. Lincoln (right)
Three of the four were shot at, with varying outcomes. Two of them won the Civil War. One served his country by making training films for pilots and morale-boosting films for the public. One was a grass-roots organizer in a rough inner-city community. Two of them had debate breakthroughs: Lincoln-Douglas, and such gems as “I’m paying for this microphone, Mr. Green!” and “I will not make age an issue by exploiting Senator Mondale’s youth and inexperience.”
Each had a dark cloud. Ron? Iran-Contra and “Bedtime for Bonzo”. Old "Unconditional Surrender" supposedly tippled and tolerated massive corruption, including the infamous “Whiskey Ring”. Abe suspended habeas corpus and “knew melancholy” (check out “Lincoln in the Bardo”). Barack was an avowed March Madness Bracketologist and, uh, where the heck was he born anyhow?
(Citizens for Grant S&L, 1930s Cracker Jack Grant, St. Patrick's Day, MAGA, Reagan in Illinois (below), Reagan in '76 & Reagan-Schweiker courtesy of Busy Beaver Museum.)
All were controversial - even polarizing - figures, yet won second terms handily: Abe 55%, Ulysses 56%, Ronnie 59%, and Barack who snared a whopping 332 Electoral College votes. Our Mt. Rushmore, the pantheon of Illinoisans who made it to the top.
This author has visited all of their Illinois homes and recommends it for your Bicentennial Road-trip itinerary. We’ve explored New Salem (including paddling the same route Lincoln took on the scenic Sangamon River), Galena, Tampico, Springfield and Dixon (all modest affairs), and peered through the wrought-iron fence in Hyde Park before getting shagged-off by men with guns.
(New Salem & 1864 Lincoln "ferrotype" pins courtesy of Busy Beaver Museum)
Claude Walker. Bicentennial-by-Buttons: 200 Years of Trailblazers, Rascals and Felons