Lincoln’s 200th birthday coincides with Obama inauguration

November 8th, 2008 - 9:41 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Nov 8 (DPA) In an ironic twist, the US will be celebrating the 200th birthday of president Abe Lincoln - the US leader who ended slavery - just weeks after the inauguration of its first black president, Barack Obama.Thus, it is hardly surprising that the theme of Obama’s Jan 20 historic inauguration will be dominated by Lincoln, a president who also took office as the nation faced huge challenges.

The announcement was made Wednesday, just a day after Obama’s election felled the final racial barrier for non-whites in the US.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the joint congressional committee on the inauguration, said the theme of the ground-breaking event would be “A New Birth of Freedom”.

The words are taken from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the eloquent commemoration for the dead after the 1863 civil war battle of Gettysburg, the most northern point of the Confederate invasion.

Obama summoned Lincoln’s ideals in his victory speech Tuesday night in Grant Park, Chicago, recalling that Lincoln was a Republican who worked to heal a country divided by the passions of the war, and insisting that “our union can be perfected”.

“To all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright - tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: Democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope,” Obama said.

Obama has already been compared to Lincoln throughout the campaign. Both men came from the state of Illinois, having served in the Illinois legislature in Springfield, where Obama announced his candidacy in 2007.

They share physical qualities as tall, lanky figures. They rose rather quickly from relative obscurity in state politics to the White House. They are known for their oratorical skills.

Most importantly, both entered the White House facing the perils of war and other immense problems, such as the financial meltdown that will dominate Obama’s attention as he takes the presidential oath.

Lincoln, who was born Feb 12, 1809, used the phrase “new birth of freedom” as he ended his Gettysburg address at the war cemetery in the southern Pennsylvania town, a speech that American school children still memorize.

After noting the “great task” ahead - the Civil War was only half over and would last another two years, Lincoln called for the country to take “increased devotion” to the cause for which the “honoured dead” had fought - “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Inaugural themes are traditionally linked to significant historic events in US history.

Feinstein said it was “especially fitting to celebrate the words of Lincoln as we prepare to inaugurate the first African-American president of the United States.”

“At a time when our country faces major challenges at home and abroad, it is appropriate to revisit the words of Lincoln, who worked to bring the nation together by appealing to the better angels of our nature,” Feinstein said.

When Obama takes the oath of office “he will look across the National Mall toward the Lincoln Memorial, where the 16th president’s immortal words are inscribed,” Feinstein said.

She said that some inaugural traditions had changed since Lincoln’s time, but the ceremony “continues to symbolize the ideals of renewal, continuity, and unity that he so often expressed.”

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