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Lincoln the Prophet?

It seems that talk of Abraham Lincoln is everywhere these days. Steven Speilberg's movie "Lincoln", which includes an incredibly powerful performance by Daniel Day-Lewis as the 16th president, is a front-runner for several Academy Awards. Many organizations are holding special events to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Even our current president, President Obama, is getting into the act, announcing he will take his second oath of office on bibles owned by President Lincoln and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Since President Lincoln is getting so much attention, I thought now would be a good time to share my favorite words of his. These lines come from a speech Mr. Lincoln gave before he was even 30 years old:

"In the great journal of things happening under the sun, we, the American people, find our account running . . . . We find ourselves in the peaceful possession of the fairest portion of the earth as regards extent of territory, fertility of soil, and salubrity of climate. We find ourselves under the government of a system of political institutions conducing more essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty than any of which the history of former times tells us. We, when mounting the stage of existence, found ourselves the legal inheritors of these fundamental blessings. We toiled not in the acquirement or establishment of them; they are a legacy bequeathed us by a once hardy, brave, and patriotic, but now lamented and departed, race of ancestors. Theirs was the task (and nobly they performed it) to possess themselves, and through themselves us, of this goodly land, and to uprear upon its hills and its valleys a political edifice of liberty and equal rights; 'tis ours only to transmit these — the former unprofaned by the foot of an invader, the latter undecayed by the lapse of time and untorn by usurpation — to the latest generation that fate shall permit the world to know. This task of gratitude to our fathers, justice to ourselves, duty to posterity, and love for our species in general, all imperatively require us faithfully to perform.

"How then shall we perform it? At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years.

"At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, If it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide."

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