This month we celebrate the 200th birthday of both Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln. Actually, Lincoln and Darwin were both born on the same day: February 12, 1809. They have a few other similarities: both lost their mother at a young age, both had difficulty settling on a career, and both loved to take notes and write out their thoughts on paper. But most importantly, they both changed the world.

Darwin was responsible for giving people a reason to believe there is no God. He wrote in The Descent of Man, “There is no fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in their mental faculties.” Darwin taught that evolution through natural selection brought about mankind as we know it. He did not believe all humans were equal, claiming that dark-skinned people were “savages” and that light-skinned people were the “favored” race.

Lincoln saw things much differently. He is famous for being the president who freed the slaves. He taught in his Gettysburg Address that “all men are created equal.” He knew that our nation was “under God.” These statements became the basis for the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. These amendments uphold the rights of all U.S. citizens, regardless of skin color.

Lincoln believed these truths so deeply that he was willing to bring the country to war over it. His beliefs have had a far-reaching effect on our country, making it a place where no person can be owned by another person. All are free and equal, created by God.

Happy birthday and thank you, Mr. Lincoln!