U.S. Representative and Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission member
My family’s experience in the civil rights movement, which Lincoln so inspired, has shaped my thinking and guided my work as a member of Congress. Likewise, my belief that history – and in particular, Abraham Lincoln – holds relevance to our lives has played a significant part in my development as a person. I believe Lincoln’s leadership as president, his wisdom, and his belief in the bedrock American principles of freedom and democracy are all guideposts we can continue to follow today in building a more perfect Union.
In concluding his Gettysburg Address, Lincoln looked to the future of the United States. He said “…it is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us … 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.”
Of course, he was thinking most immediately about the end of the war and with it the preservation of the Union, the end of slavery, and reconstruction. However, I believe he was speaking to future generations as well.
True freedom means having equal opportunity. Today, we live in a nation where not everyone has the same opportunity to access a good education or good medical care or safe housing.
I believe that once again we need to appeal – just as Lincoln did – to the common ground of building a more perfect Union. We must again accept Lincoln’s challenge and finish “the great task remaining before us;” seize the opportunity to bring a new birth of freedom” to America. That can happen if we stimulate the people themselves to fight to build a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
Just as slaves fleeing to freedom were guided by the North Star, Lincoln can be our North Star to a more perfect Union. He continues to offer leadership and timeless words of wisdom for our day.