On this day in 1809, our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, was born near Hodgenville, Kentucky. Today, 204 years later, I was honored to help mark the anniversary of his birth at a wreath-laying ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial here in Washington, DC.
You don't have to be a student of American history or of Lincoln's biography to know that President Lincoln was a great leader and one of our greatest Presidents--if not our greatest.
As a former Member of Congress from the same part of Illinois that Abraham Lincoln represented when he served a term in the House of Representatives, it was a true privilege for me at today's ceremony to read aloud Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.
And while I was reading it--in the shadow of Daniel Chester French's larger-than-life sculpture of this American hero, I couldn't help but think about the leadership Lincoln demonstrated.
During a time of great conflict, with the fate of the nation less certain than at any time since the American Revolution, he kept us united. Through his determination, and the sacrifices made by so many soldiers and their families, he succeeded.
He was equally determined to lead this nation through the difficult peace that was to follow. He understood that it would be no easy task, that Congress would be divided by factions, but still he charted a course--beginning with the 13th Amendment to our Constitution--that would carry us forward.
Although he was denied the opportunity to see that effort through, he understood that only together could our nation thrive. Only when we work together, setting aside our differences, can we solve our nation's problems.
As Lincoln said: "It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us...that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
We have work to do. Let's get it done.