When President Barack Obama took the oath of the office of President of
the United States, he placed his hand on the same bible Abraham Lincoln
used. It is one of many connections between the 16th President and the
44th. To mark the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth, President
Obama returned to the place where both he and Lincoln spent the
beginning of their careers in politics. The president continues to
draw inspiration from Lincoln as he deals with the economic crisis.
Almost two years from the day Barack Obama announced his candidacy for President in Springfield, Illinois, he made his first visit back to the place where his long campaign began.
Speaking to supporters and members of the Abraham Lincoln Association, Mr. Obama paid tribute to the man he credits for paving the way to his own success.
"It is a humbling task, marking the bicentennial of our 16th President's birth - humbling for me in particular, I think, for the presidency of this singular figure in so many ways made my own story possible," the president said.
Obama's speech came at the end of a day when partisan politics and economic distress continue to dominate the headlines as he tries to bring the United States out of economic decline.
New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg announced he is withdrawing from consideration for an appointment to head the Commerce Department. President Obama made light of the development as he reflected on the concerns Lincoln had over 150 years ago.
"In 1854, Lincoln was simply a Springfield lawyer, who'd served just a single term in Congress," President Obama noted. "Possibly in his law office, his feet on a cluttered desk, his sons playing around him, his clothes a bit too small to fit his uncommon frame, wondering if someone might call him up and ask him to be Commerce Secretary."
Though lighthearted at times, Mr. Obama used his speech to emphasize the need for immediate action on his stimulus plan, and insisted that government intervention is necessary to reverse the economic decline.
"Such knee-jerk disdain for government - this constant rejection of any common endeavor - cannot rebuild our levees or our roads or our bridges," he noted. "It cannot refurbish our schools or modernize our health care system; lead to the next medical discovery or yield the research and technology that will spark a clean energy economy."
President Obama's visit to Springfield marked the end of a day filled with events in both Illinois and Washington D.C. marking the Lincoln Bicentennial.
Often drawing inspiration from Abraham Lincoln's words and deeds, Mr. Obama once again summoned the memory of one of America's most revered Presidents in his own quest to lift the country out of a dark period.
"And when posterity looks back on our time, as we are looking back on Lincoln's, I do not want it said that we saw an economic crisis, but did not stem it," President Obama said. "That we saw our schools decline and our bridges crumble, but did not rebuild them. That the world changed in the 21st century, but America did not lead it. That we were consumed with small things when we were called to do great things. Instead, let them say that this generation - our generation - of Americans rose to the moment and gave America a new birth of freedom and opportunity in our time."
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, who facilitated Mr. Obama's appearance at the Lincoln banquet, was himself unable to attend the gathering because of ongoing negotiations on Capitol Hill to finalize a stimulus plan.