Sunday, January 20, 2013

Reflections on Lincoln and Obama Inaugurations

Tomorrow President Obama will take the oath of office with two Bibles that once belonged to a pair of civil rights icons: Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King.  King's "traveling Bible" was provided by his family, while the Lincoln Bible is from the Library of Congress and was used during the 16th president's inauguration on March 4, 1861.  A black President will be taking the oath of office for a second term, on Martin Luther King's birthday, using those two bibles.  Rather astounding for a 64-year old guy like me who grew up in the Jim Crow south.  I am very happy I lived long enough to witness it.

Regarding Lincoln's second inauguration, weeks of wet weather preceding it had caused Pennsylvania Avenue to become a sea of mud and standing water. Thousands of spectators stood in thick mud at the Capitol grounds to hear the President. As he stood on the East Portico to take the executive oath, the completed Capitol dome over the President's head was a physical reminder of the resolve of his Administration throughout the years of civil war. Chief Justice Salmon Chase administered the oath of office.

The following is likely the most significant, poignant, and powerful paragraph in any Presidential inaugural address in history.  It was the last line of Lincoln's address.  In little more that a month,  President Lincoln would be assassinated:
"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

Tomorrow will be a good day in America.  Godspeed to President Obama in his second term.  And at America's most critical hour, thank God for the life of Abraham Lincoln. 

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