What is worth examining is the proximity of the man not only to the extraordinary demands of the country's highest public office but also to the ordinary stuff of life - from the citizens lining the corridors of the White House to the correspondence streaming in.
Examining a week or even a day in Lincoln's epistolary life - the Abraham Lincoln Association website hosted by the University of Michigan makes easy - reveals how little of the ordinary the president seems to have been spared in this momentous period.
Lincoln operated on many different levels simultaneously, managing panoramic initiatives even as he addressed the everyday concerns of private citizens.
He endorsed job applicants for even minor political offices; arranged for the mustering out of drummer boys; reviewed the petitions of paymasters accused of theft; pardoned soldiers for various offenses; facilitated a mother's search for her wounded son; recommended candidates for admission to West Point; addressed a Mrs. Green's complaint that her husband had not been promoted in timely fashion; communicated to his wife the death of Tad's pet goat; and daily scolded, cajoled, inspired and nursed the wounded egos of fractious, jealous generals on whom his hopes depended.
"I have no more time for Mr. Capen," Lincoln wrote on April 26, 1863, after being importuned once too often by a quack meteorologist whose forecast for sun had just been belied by 10 hours of rain.
It took a great deal, however, to wear down Lincoln's patience.
He had secretaries, of course, but the personal energy he devoted to individual requests, petitions, and complaints would be considered beneath the importance of any modern president, who could not afford such investment.
When we think of Lincoln's political vision and rhetorical capacity, perhaps we imagine that he managed it despite distractions.
Yet what if it was his very proximity to the mundane that made those triumphs of intellect possible?
Policymakers and political visionaries rarely have such constant exposure to the motivations of real people, such intimacy with their pettiness as well as their extraordinary capacity for endurance.
To see the juxtaposition of large and small in Lincoln's daily life is to consider whether an understanding of the momentous, global and strategic is truly possible without the shaping force of the quotidian.
Perhaps we have moved beyond the point where the people chosen to solve our problems can dwell in the real.
Yet when we consider that being steeped in the real can yield a Gettysburg Address, this year on the Fourth of July we might well wonder what we have lost.
Samet is a professor of English at the U.S. Military Academy and the author of "Soldier's Heart: Reading Literature Through Peace and War at West Point." Her column was distributed by Bloomberg News.