Ever since moving to Memphis 17 years ago, I have been mildly intrigued by the attention to Elvis Presley. The perennial puzzle that people often ask about: why is there still so much interest in Elvis, especially by younger generations born long after his death? Maybe it was his music, his good looks, his provocative moves, his defiant transgression of cultural norms. I think, though, it has much to do with the commodity value of his image aggressively promoted by Elvis Presley Enterprises. Elvis is profitable.
But I realized during my visit last week to Springfield, Illinois, that Elvis has nothing on Abraham Lincoln. More than a century and a half after his assassination, people are still enthralled, even worshipful, of Lincoln. They visit his home and tomb in Springfield, Illinois, and seek out his haunts all over the state. One can visit national and state historic sites, memorials, and monuments dedicated to the sixteenth president, find thousands of schools, streets, buildings, and other locations across the nation bearing his name, read over 16,000 books about Lincoln, see his image everyday on coins and currency, and there is no end in sight. Abraham Lincoln’s iconic stature far exceeds anything Elvis could hope for, all without the insistent efforts of a multi-million dollar corporation squeezing every last penny from his memory. Lincoln profits national pride, while Elvis has always been about money first and last. ♨