Like many Americans, I have always held Abraham Lincoln in the highest regard. Like everyone else who grew up in learning history in this country, Lincoln was regarded by me as the man who freed the slaves, saved the union, and died a martyr for all that is good about our country. Perhaps those views can now be seen as somewhat naive, but there is no denying the reverence our country still feels for our 16th president. And to be sure, that reverence is well deserved, even if the probing light of history has changed the view a bit.
Yesterday, as we celebrated Lincoln’s 200th birthday, I wanted to write a little something about the man I admire so much. But what was I to say? Do I really have the authority or skill to write eloquently enough about someone who defined the art of eloquent writing? So I resigned myself to skipping this project of a post on Lincoln. That was until I watched President Obama’s speech in Springfield, Illinois last night.
So rather than try and write something, I thought I would simply leave you today with a bit of the President’s speech. Not surprisingly, he did a far better job than I could have hoped to do…
He understood that strain of personal liberty and self-reliance at the heart of the American experience.
But he also understood something else. He recognized that while each of us must do our part, work as hard as we can, and be as responsible as we can -– in the end, there are certain things we cannot do on our own. There are certain things we can only do together. There are certain things only a Union can do.
Only a Union could harness the courage of our pioneers to settle the American west, which is why he passed a Homestead Act giving a tract of land to anyone seeking a stake in our growing economy.
Only a Union could foster the ingenuity of our farmers, which is why he set up land-grant colleges that taught them how to make the most of their land while giving their children an education that let them dream the American dream.
Only a union could speed our expansion and connect our coasts with a transcontinental railroad, and so, even in the midst of civil war, he built one. He fueled new enterprises with a national currency, spurred innovation, and ignited America’s imagination with a national academy of sciences, believing we must, as he put it, add “the fuel of interest to the fire of genius in the discovery…of new and useful things.”
The “fuel of interest to the fire of genius”! What a beautiful sentence. So how about we raise a glass to Mr. Lincoln? Who wouldn’t have loved to sit at a pub and listen to him spin a yarn?
by Dave McBride