This titan of American national heritage grew up as a poor boy on the frontier. Reading books by candlelight, whether after long hours at school or on the farm, proved invaluable to young Lincoln. He later served as a store clerk, a river trader, and a "rail-splitter" used to hard physical labor. A plain speaker for plain folks, Lincoln blended his love of the written word with a strong work ethic and pursued a legal career, then a political one from the Illinois state legislature to the U.S. Congress. Here was a man who aspired to lead a nation.