Obama and Lincoln, barack obama and Abraham Lincoln, obama campaign and Lincoln
Gerald Herbert/AP
President-elect Barack Obama walks with his wife Michelle, and daughters Sasha and Malia, after
touring the
Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Saturday, Jan. 10, 2009. (AP)

Obama Taking Lincoln’s Legacy To Heart

January 13, 2009 12:42 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
Leading up to his inauguration, President-elect Barack Obama continues taking cues from Abraham Lincoln’s methodical, anecdotal style.

In Lincoln, Obama Sees Himself

Since the start of his campaign, President-elect Obama has drawn comparisons to Abraham Lincoln, and has compared his own life to the former president’s.

Obama’s latest nod to Lincoln is his Inauguration Day luncheon. The meal will feature Lincoln’s favorite seafood and will be served on replicas of Mary Todd Lincoln’s china, reports the New York Post.

Last month, The New York Times reported that Obama would take his oath of office on the same bible Lincoln used, becoming the first incoming president to use the burgundy velvet book. Furthermore, Obama will follow Lincoln’s Inauguration Day train route from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C.

And in an article examining “Lincoln’s Playbook” and how it might influence Obama, Ed Homick of CNN lists other notable likenesses. Both men were leading Illinois politicians, but not originally from the state; both were called too inexperienced; and both Obama and Lincoln “were raised by women other than their mothers.”

But Obama’s reverence for Lincoln runs deeper, and the President-elect seems to have spent time evaluating Lincoln’s every motivation, however flawed. Obama wrote in an essay for Time magazine in 2005, “It is precisely those imperfections—and the painful self-awareness of those failings etched in every crease of his face and reflected in those haunted eyes—that make him so compelling,” reports The Washington Post.

Background: How Lincoln hoped

In 2005, Lincoln biographer David Herbert Donald spoke with PBS’s Ray Suarez about Lincoln’s legacy and enduring appeal. Before Obama became a household name, Donald pointed out a key similarity with Lincoln: the emphasis on hope. “Lincoln’s experience gives nearly all of us hope no matter how humble our beginnings that one can rise, one can be successful,” he said.

Donald also touched on Lincoln’s humor, which typically drew upon real-life experience. Said Donald, “he could make stories that would immediately hit the point, they would tell exactly what he wanted to do. Lincoln’s mastery of the anecdote has never been equaled.”

Related Topic: “Team of Rivals”

John Stauffer of The Huffington Post examines the lessons of Lincoln’s inaugural address and discusses Lincoln’s “team of rivals” Cabinet. Obama “needs to understand that Lincoln’s management of his wartime Cabinet was far more a failure than success,” Stauffer writes.

Reference: Gettysburg Address; Lincoln-Douglas debates; Lincoln’s assassination


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