Obama's Speech at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential LibrarySomervell County Salon-Glen Rose, Rainbow, Nemo, Glass....Texas


 

Obama's Speech at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
 


19 April 2005 at 8:07:35 PM
salon

Compare what he says about Lincoln and what made him a great president versus Bush.

And yet what separates Lincoln from the other great men has to do with something else. It's an issue of character that speaks to us, of moral resolve. Lincoln was not a perfect man, nor a perfect president. By modern standards, his condemnation of slavery might be considered tentative; his Emancipation Proclamation more a military document than a clarion call for justice. He wasn't immune to political considerations; his temperament could be indecisive and morose.

And yet despite these imperfections, despite his fallibility...indeed, perhaps because of a painful self-awareness of his own failings, etched in every crease of his face and reflected in those haunted eyes...because of this essential humanity of his, when it came time to confront the greatest moral challenge this nation has ever faced, Lincoln did not flinch.

He did not equivocate or duck or pass the challenge on to future generations. He did not demonize the fathers and sons who did battle on the other side, nor seek to diminish the terrible costs of his war. In the midst of slavery's dark storm and the complexities of governing a house divided, he kept his moral compass pointed firm and true.

It serves us then to reflect on whether that element of Lincoln's character, and the American character - that aspect which makes tough choices, and speaks the truth when least convenient, and acts while still admitting doubt - remains with us today. Lincoln once said that "character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing."

At a time when image all too often trumps substance, when our politics all too often feeds rather than bridges division, when the prospects of a poor youth rising out of poverty seem of no consequence to the powerful, and when we evoke our common God to condemn those who do not think as we do, rather than to seek God's mercy for our own lack of understanding - at such a time it is helpful to remember this man who was the real thing. Lincoln reminds us that our essential greatness is not the shadow of sophistication or popularity, or wealth or power or fleeting celebrity. It is the tree that stands in the face of our doubts and fears and bigotries, and insists we can do better.


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Comments

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