LIBERTY ENLIGHTENING THE WORLD
Presidential Election 2008 and what it
might portend, now that it's all over
Thursday, November 6, 2008
by Richard E. Berg-Andersson
BARACK OBAMA is elected the 44th President of the United States of America--
posted on the home page of TheGreenPapers.com shortly after 11 PM Eastern Standard Time, 4 November 2008 (0400 UTC, 5 November 2008)
I say to you today, my friends, that- despite the difficulties and frustration of the moment- I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American Dream. I have a dream that, one day, this Nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal"...
I have a dream that my four little children will, one day, live in a Nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character: I have a dream today...
And, if America is to be a great Nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring... When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every State and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children- Black men and White men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics- will be able to join hands and sing, in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
'Free at last!
Dr. MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr.- on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, during the 'March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom': 28 August 1963
In case you hadn't noticed- whether you happen to be reading this piece whilst online within the borders of these very United States of America or seeing this on the Internet somewhere else around the Globe- in case you weren't at all paying attention, in case you even might have turned to- for some reason or other- look the other way: a dream was fulfilled the other day- Tuesday 4 November 2008.
Mark that very date well; burn it into your own memories, dear readers- whether you, assuming the reader here might be a voting-eligible American, voted for or against President-elect Obama or even stayed away from the polls and didn't even bother to vote; whether or not you are even an American who even could've voted in our most recent Presidential Election in the first place.
Well and often enough recall- to the very end of your days, no matter how young or how old you might be- where you were, and what you might have been doing, at the very moment you first heard the news that the United States of America had elected a Black man to hold the Highest Office that Nation has to offer- for this past Tuesday will, forever, be as singular a date- not just in American History, but in World History- coming out of this very first decade of the 21st Century as that other, darker and far bleaker Tuesday- 11 September 2001.
On 11 September 2001, a dream- known here in the States as that very 'American Dream' of which Dr. King so long ago spoke (though those of you outside the USofA might well have the very same Dream under a different- perhaps even less nationalistic- sobriquet)- was most gravely threatened; on 4 November 2008, that very dream was renewed and reinvigorated.
Two very different Tuesdays- both taking place as the warmth and sunshine of Summer was already within that inexorable, annual process of eventually giving way to the cold and cloud of Winter here in the Northern Hemisphere (with all due apologies to those of you who might be reading this south of the Equator and for whom the months of September and November, respectively, beckon something altogether different). In both cases, the political- and geopolitical- Winter that thereafter ensued promised to be one well made up of the deepest snows and "hard frosts" of my own native New England; but, and this is also true in both cases, we could- and can- be certain that, however harsh the Winter to come might have been- and yet can be, Spring would- and will- inexorably come round again: the flowers will, once again, bloom and the meadows will, yet once more, teem with the activity of so many of God's creatures- both on the ground and in the air, come what may.
I spent part of my childhood (first on into fourth grades in elementary school) on Staten Island, one of the five Boroughs of the 'City and Corporation of Greater New York', and, back then, that island's principal connection to the rest of that Greater City (at least until the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge opened just before Thanksgiving while I was in third grade) were two ferries: one, the more famous of the two, to the Battery, the foot- the toe, really- of that bustling fellow island-Borough of Manhattan (what most of you reading this, both within and without the United States, undoubtedly alone think of when your mind conjures up the very concept of 'New York City'-- "skyscrapers and everything" [;-)]); the other to the Bay Ridge section of that most unique Borough of Brooklyn, hugging the southwestern extremity of New York State's Long Island.
And, while riding- fairly regularly back in those long ago days- each of these aquatic conveyances- whether on the 'Brooklyn Ferry' carrying the family car to a summer's day at Long Island's Jones Beach or taking the 'Manhattan Ferry' (sans automobile, since the IRT Subway loudly squealing into the loop at the South Ferry station would be that which would be carrying my mother, my infant brother and me to either Macy's or Gimbel's [via the West Side's 'Broadway-7th Avenue' line] or Bloomingdale's or Alexander's [via the East Side 'Lexington Avenue-4th Avenue line], as Staten Island did not yet have a sizable shopping center- nor even a mall- back in the early 1960s)- I would so often see her: that Lady silently standing as sentinel in Upper New York Bay, her copper skin having already well weathered to green, yet her right hand boldly holding that torch high over her head- aging, yes (after all, as my child's eyes looked upon her, she was already past her mid-70s!), yet so obviously ageless- as ageless as the very self-evident Truths she herself ever so stoically represented, and still represents.
I did not- indeed, could not- yet grasp those Truths, however: I was still too young and, in fact, these would not really begin to be more impressed upon me until that stormier Spring about which I wrote earlier this year on this very website. I did not even know the Lady's real full name- Liberty Enlightening the World- and, had I even known it back then, it would not yet have meant anything more to me than her much more familiar moniker 'the Statue of Liberty'.
I did not yet know the famous words of the poet Emma Lazarus written about what- among all the many things that might well pass from between her silent lips and come, as if a whisper, into one's mind while one, just as silently, contemplates those self-evident Truths she so symbolizes- the Lady might be saying to us all (here with at least some modernized punctuation and spelling of my own):
Give me your tired, your poor-
I had no idea whatsoever, as that now-so long ago child gazing at that Lady in the harbor from along the railing of the Knickerbocker or the Cornelius G. Kolff or the American Legion or the Gold Star Mother (and I had no real inkling as to what a 'gold star mother' even was!), that what looked to me to be a pad of paper- very much like the 'Big Chief' writing pads my grandmother would so often buy for me while I was visiting my Mom's parents in that very same Connecticut home in which I had lived before coming to Staten Island- in her left hand was actually marked with the inscription 'JULY IV MDCCLXXVI', the very date on which the self-evident Truths, her essence, first became writ-large "Facts" "submitted to a candid World" by a beleaguered Continental Congress, as much such "Facts" as the 'counts', as it were, in the 'indictment' of Britain's King George III contained in that same Declaration of American Independence- that is: the very moment in History (again, World- as well as American- History) those Truths became, indeed, that very "creed" of America about which Dr. King would speak nearly two centuries later.
No, only as an adult would I most fully come to appreciate what one tourists' guide to New York City so well states about Lady Liberty: that only the most hard-hearted of persons would fail to get a lump in one's throat upon first seeing her...
likewise (which is why I here bring this all up to begin with), only the most hard-hearted Obama detractor would so utterly fail to appreciate the deep significance of what just transpired earlier this very week in our Nation's most recent Presidential Election!
If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible- who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy- tonight is your answer. It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four hours...
Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states: we are, and always will be, the United States of America...
[T]o all those watching tonight from beyond our shores- from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world- our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.--
President-elect BARACK OBAMA- Victory Speech in Chicago's Grant Park: 4 November 2008
This is preeminently the time to speak the truth- the whole truth- frankly and boldly, nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today: this great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is Fear itself- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the People themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days: in such a spirit on my part, and on yours, we face our common difficulties.--
President FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT- First Inaugural Address: 4 March 1933
But the most hard-hearted amongst Barack Obama's detractors are still out there somewhere and even the President-elect himself certainly senses, where he cannot even know inherently, that his "new dawn of American leadership" is not- and cannot- yet be that "leadership of frankness and vigor" of which his predecessor (for we all can now use this term) FDR once spoke.
We all can see- as Obama himself must surely see- that the basest vitriol of this most recent election campaign did not simply disappear with his having reached the "magic number" of 270 Electoral Votes that evening as if someone had, at that very moment, thrown a switch to the 'OFF' position. Thus, he still must earn Franklin Roosevelt's "understanding and support of the People themselves... essential to victory"; indeed, his principal focus- during the Transition Period leading up to Noon Eastern Time come next 20 January- is, in fact, not merely setting up his Administration but also securing that very "understanding and support of the People".
In his famous 'I Have a Dream' speech from which I quoted earlier in this piece, Dr. King asked that Freedom be allowed to ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire... from the mighty mountains of New York... from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania... from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado... from the curvaceous peaks of California
all States that Barack Obama won the other day...
however, Dr. King's dream also included Freedom ringing from Stone Mountain of Georgia... from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee... from every hill and molehill of Mississippi
and, as regards these States, Obama did not win the pledges of their Electors.
But the next President of the United States clearly realizes that, yes,there are those regions- the Deep South and the Upper Intermountain West (including Alaska)- where he did not do so well after all.
The road ahead will be long, America's next President told us all from Grant Park the other night. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year- or even in one term- but, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you: we- as a people- will get there.
It was an obvious reference to Dr. King's last speech- delivered in Memphis, Tennessee on 3 April 1968, the very evening before his assassination- where he famously said: We've got some difficult days ahead but it doesn't matter with me now- because I've been to the mountaintop... and I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you but I want you to know, tonight, that we- as a people- will get to the promised land.
One can, of course, fairly discuss and debate as to whether Dr. King was, four decades back, speaking only of his fellow African-Americans as that "people" or, rather, of America as a whole-- or, perhaps, even both!
However, there is no doubt whatsoever that those "people" in Barack Obama's promise that we- as a people- will get there is that very "We, the People of the United States" who, as I myself have often opined on this very website, "do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America" continually as long as this Nation does, in fact, so endure as FDR himself hoped it would.
There will be setbacks and false starts, Obama went on by way of caution. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as President... but I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. Later on in his speech, the President-elect himself specifically addressed those Americans whose support I have yet to earn: I may not have won your vote tonight but I hear your voices- I need your help and I will be your President, too.
Sadly, though, there remain those who simply can't bring themselves to see things that way-- the very same people who tended, throughout both the pre-Convention and General Election campaigns, make all too much about President-elect Obama's middle name being 'Hussein' or who tried to tie him much too closely to one-time 60s-era radical-turned-liberal Education Professor Bill Ayers or Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Wright may well have been Obama's pastor in the United Church of Christ (which, by the way- and this was missed almost entirely in the controversies surrounding Obama's worshipping at Wright's church this past Spring- is actually a well-established Protestant denomination lineally descended from the very Congregationalism brought to these shores aboard the Mayflower back in 1620, for God's sake!) that Obama and his family attended and, yes, Wright does so well deserve a patriot's condemnation for having so vehemently declaimed "God damn America!" (meanwhile: last time *I* checked, God doesn't usually choose sides).
For these reasons- as well as others- these do not, cannot and will not, ever see Barack Obama as their President and, thus, they fear (in the manner of that very 'Fear itself' of which FDR once spoke) that, despite his words, Obama will not be their President, too-- even though Barack Obama has already taken an oath, as a United States Senator, to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic... and, in addition, did so freely, without mental reservation or purposes of evasion; furthermore, as President, he will be (also often pointed out on this very website) the only Federal officeholder required to also preserve and protect that Constitution, as well as defend it!
Why, then, would he even seek an office for which the very oath associated therewith is a full 180 degrees from what a Reverend Wright might be saying- if, in fact, he agreed with Wright at all- in the first place? Why would Senator Obama reach so high for such an obviously lofty place in this Nation's- not to also mention the World's- History if all he wanted to do, in the main, with that Office was to besmirch his own Presidency with the darkest possible stain of the ultimate impeachable offense-- the failure to make and keep this Nation secure?
It all, so obviously, defies logical sense!
Then again, when it comes to so-called 'conspiracy theories', of whatever stripe, Logic almost always has rather little to do with things.
Looked at in this particular context, then, President-elect Obama's parting remarks at his Victory Rally in Grant Park take on an even greater meaning: Thank you; God bless you, he told the crowd. And may God bless the United States of America-- and this last can well be seen as a very public affirmation- one made, for the very first time, as the incoming President of the United States- of the very opposite of Wright's sentiments, for which I applaud the new President-to be. For, like myself, Barack Obama simply refuses to stop being a patriotic American merely because there might be those out there who don't happen to think he is at all patriotic to begin with.
Again, ever the true maverick, Obama does what has to be done.
This alone, however, does not at all mitigate that 'Fear itself' still felt by many out there across the length and breadth of these United States and it did not at all help matters that President-elect Obama's erstwhile opponent, Senator John McCain, was- sad as it may be to here say- the chief beneficiary of that Fear in the voting booth.
I am not at all suggesting here that McCain- a genuine American hero, a man who (as I myself once wrote on this website) yet remains one of the better stories coming out of that most divisive conflict (with divisions between Americans which I am old enough to still so well remember) known simply by only the name of its very location: Vietnam- is the least bit racist (if nothing else, at least some quarters in and among those who voted for McCain now complain he was too careful to avoid such a charge during this election campaign).
But he- and his running mate, Governor Palin (whom I, likewise, am not at all here considering to have baited race herself)- did talk quite a lot about an Obama Presidency as being potentially dangerous and 'tis true there were far too many shadowy corners- here and there, albeit a mere sliver of the entirety of the American electorate all told- within the realm of those who supported the McCain/Palin ticket where the very mix of the name 'Obama', his own racial background and the word 'danger' implied- and, in these first few hours after McCain's defeat, yet implies- a concoction far more sinister in nature.
Yes, more Americans throughout the Nation chose Hope over Fear the other day... only not by all that much, for the Popular Vote was still rather close between Senators Obama and McCain- although the Electoral College system, indeed, did do at least part of what the Framers of the Federal Constitution ever intended it to so do: stamp the new President with the imprimatur of Electors from as many States of the American Union as possible so that there could be no doubt that the man occupying the Highest Office in the Land (and, since the end of the Second World War, the most important position of political leadership in the entire World) represents the widest possible geographical swath across the Nation.
None of this, however, alters the fact that President-elect Obama has more than a few fences to so well mend among those who supported his opponent in this Election before he can at all claim FDR's "understanding and support" among at least a significant percentage of these. At the same time, it has to be acknowledged that there are those who voted for McCain/Palin whose understanding and support he will never ever receive and- among at least a few of these, relatively speaking- FDR's "Fear itself" continues to at least smolder, where it is not outright inflamed by his very election.
Therefore, as historic and noteworthy as 4 November 2008 will be in the Annals of Mankind, the various and sundry problems and passions of Race in America were not, in the least, completely swept away by Obama's election to the Presidency.
These are difficult times for our country... Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans- and please believe me when I say no association has ever meant more to me than that.
It's natural, tonight, to feel some disappointment but, tomorrow, we must move beyond it and work together to get our country moving again. We fought as hard as we could and, though we fell short, the failure is mine- not yours.--
Senator JOHN McCAIN (R-Arizona)- Concession Speech in Phoenix: 4 November 2008
No, John McCain... that failure is not even really yours!
Instead, principal- where not all due- responsibility for the end of Senator McCain's bid for the Presidency (not to mention the GOP's significant losses in both houses of Congress) is to be placed at the doorstep of the White House and, once inside, at the feet of one man- President George W. Bush (who, ironically, also derailed John McCain's presidential ambitions eight years before during Bush's first successful bid for the Republican presidential nomination).
It is ever dangerous to attempt to write History as it is actually unfolding: often as not, what appears to be most important in the immediate aftermath of current events is, in the end, not the stuff of the historian even a mere generation thereafter. Nevertheless, I feel I can safely say that at least some creditable historians in the years and decades hence will be able to so credibly argue that George W. Bush is the man who is most responsible for the final end of the Reagan Coalition.
This is not at all a knock on the memory of Ronald Reagan himself- either the man or the political philosophy that attaches to his name- any more than Jimmy Carter's Administration marking the end of FDR's Grand Coalition might be any kind of dark stain on the record of that Franklin Delano Roosevelt I quoted from earlier in this very Commentary.
American political coalitions are, by their very nature, products of their own time: thus, they have a "shelf life" of not much more than a generation or so. Sometimes that shelf life can be extended, if only for a time-- as, for example, the New Deal Coalition of FDR himself was kept going by Lyndon Baines Johnson (at least until the good ship Great Society broke upon the rocks of that very Vietnam Conflict in which John McCain himself would become imprisoned).
But, in the end, all things must pass- and, very often, the passing of the once new vision that has, eventually, become merely the Old Order is visible, whether we choose to see it or not, even before its final sunset: the late Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson (D-Washington) claimed the mantle of the FDR-LBJ Coalition in his victory in the Massachusetts Presidential Primary on 2 March 1976 (one of the very few Primaries Jimmy Carter would actually lose that year), only to have his own attempts to extend that coalition begin to vaporize in Florida's Presidential Primary a mere week later and altogether disappear by the end of the following month: a foreshadowing of Jimmy Carter's own political difficulties as President.
Not only the above but the rise of the so-called 'New Right' in the Midterm Federal Elections of 1978 (elections which produced, among others, a Congressman named Newt Gingrich) marked, not only the coming of the end of FDR's (and LBJ's) Democratic Party coalition, but the beginning of Reagan's own coalition in a re-energized Republican Party post-'Watergate'.
Likewise, the re-emergence of Democratic Party control of Congress in the Midterm Federal Elections of 2006 may itself have been the herald of a new era to the Left of the political spectrum: might this, someday, be looked at as an earlier harbinger of what might come to be called the Obama Coalition? This, of course, very much remains to be seen and the actions and policies of President-elect Barack Obama as he comes into- and once he actually takes- office will go a long way towards determining this.
However, none of this changes the fact that we can already sense that President George W. Bush- no less than his predecessor Lyndon Baines Johnson had in his own time- so badly damaged, where he did not fully destroy, the very political coalition that allowed him to hold the Nation's Highest Office in the first place.
Put most frankly, America simply blew the post-9/11 era.
The United States could have used those very terrible events- events foisted upon us by those with so little regard for the lives of others largely because they had so tied a blatant disregard for their own lives with an outright perversion of one of the world's great religions- to foster good will abroad and advance its ideals here at home through enlightened example; instead, the Bush/Cheney regime (one hesitates to call it an 'Administration' if only because that term would imply it actually administered- something it so obviously failed to do) wedded the fiercest American ultranationalism with an abject neo-isolationism sold, in the manner of the carnival sideshow charlatan, as internationalism: in essence, Foreign Policy offered as not much more than cheap (not also to mention ineffective) patent medicine.
The rest of the world pretty much saw it for what it really was- at the cost, of course, of earning the invective of those self-proclaimed acolytes (where not also apologists, or even polemicists) of a mass religion they themselves labeled 'America' along with all those so-called 'superpatriots' who know not what patriotism really is but who, nevertheless, continue to hail them: the result was a rather poisonous philosophy not much less harmful than any similar political potion that might have been cooked up by, say, the Taliban- along with such silliness as referring to French fries as 'Freedom fries' (an unnecessary insult to that very same France who gave, as a gift, that Lady in New York Harbor- herself named 'Liberty'- to which I referred earlier) or suicide bombers as 'homicide bombers' (as if those who bomb but fail to kill themselves in the process commit no crime at all).
That political philosophy led directly to the worst of the War in Iraq (which, had it not been for the big lie behind it. might actually have become a much-approved moment of democratic triumph: the liberation of a people from the clutches of a horrific dictatorship no less than the final collapse of Nazism in 1945) while those who lauded that political philosophy applauded- or at least looked the other way- as attempts were then made to gut both International Law (for instance, the fiction inherent in those who were so obviously prisoners of war being labeled "detainees") and the American Constitution (as in twisting the 4th Amendment against Unreasonable Search and Seizure, among its other provisions, into meaninglessness)- all in the name of preserving their own intolerant, narrow-minded- spiteful, where not also hateful- vision of America as both a culture and a civilization: a vision that those who most fear an Obama Presidency- in the manner of the 'Fear itself' (that very "nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror") of FDR's speech- most cling to in the wake of this most recent Presidential Election.
Against this tide, much of the world turned its back on America in disgust- as well as, at times, all due revulsion- while the United States of America itself seemingly began the systematic unraveling of its own libertarian creed- that very creed for which Lady Liberty herself so stands sentinel, the creed Dr. Martin Luther King cited as the very foundation of his Dream. For, here at home, the powers-that-were kept on declaiming how "the world had changed on 9/11"- as if saying it over and over and over again alone made the statement true (in which case Dr. Goebbels was correct after all)- and then using this as an excuse to evade answering the hard questions posed by the press and the public.
Mere dissent was declared to be synonymous with Sedition, simple inquiry was compared with Treason itself- and torture was nonchalantly treated as a law enforcement technique no less acceptable than the mere presenting of evidence before a Grand Jury (but, of course, only well off of American soil and, often as not, conducted by surrogates-- after all, you don't have to wash your hands nearly so much if you so rarely get them dirty).
A man- yes, a terrorist no less criminal than he was also misguided- who was, nevertheless, an American citizen- Jose Padilla- was arrested on American soil (at the larger of the airports serving- rather ironically, in retrospect- the very hometown of the man who will now immediately succeed George W. Bush as President) and taken into military custody, an act of jurisprudential hubris flying in the very face of a long history of constitutional precedent that makes most clear that, where the civilian courts are open for business, military tribunals cannot be ultilized for crimes committed in the jurisdictions of those courts...
"the Constitution, that pesky thing"
Thankfully, as one Gerald R. Ford- a Republican- once so well put it as he ascended to the Presidency at the end of what he himself called a "long, national nightmare" (in his case, that 'Watergate' of Richard Nixon): our Constitution works. Thus, when the American People called forth Barack Obama to be their next President, that Constitution dictates how he is to be so elected and when he is to succeed to that High Office, the baser political instincts of the outgoing Administration (yes, I will now use that word) notwithstanding!
Meanwhile: when you leave the White House this coming January, George W. Bush, don't let those doors opening onto the North Portico hit you too hard on the way out! And there are many, many Republicans- those who actually voted for Obama, as well as the many more in the GOP who voted for McCain- out there who share this very sentiment with most Democrats: indeed, this is probably the one thing that, beyond all question, most Americans- regardless of either Party or ideology- have agreed on during this so recently concluded election campaign.
In this way, a different "long, national nightmare" is now about to come to an end!
So, whither that Republican Party of both John McCain and George W. Bush (and Sarah Palin, who is already being mentioned as a possible contender for National Office come 2012 [though the cautionary tales of both Joseph Lieberman and John Edwards- two other recent running mates on losing National Tickets who, four years later, unsuccessfully sought their Party's presidential nomination- should be well studied, where not well heeded])?
That, gentle reader, is a question for another time (and, therefore, another Commentary of mine)-- although it has been reported that Louisiana's Republican Governor Piyush "Bobby" Jindal is considering a trip next month to-- oh-- Iowa, home of the First-in-the-Nation caucuses that, less than a year ago, well launched what turned out to be the successful presidential bid of President-elect Obama...
Barack Obama will be the first President not entirely of European descent (he will also be, at least on one side of his pedigree, the very first First-Generation American- as his father was born in Kenya- to serve in the White House)... could 2012 actually feature a Jindal vs. Obama contest, which would- thus- become the very first American Presidential Election ever between two Major Party candidates both not entirely of European descent and both of whom are First-Generation Americans?...
Four score and seven years ago, our Fathers brought forth on this continent a new Nation, conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great Civil War, testing whether that Nation- or any nation so conceived and dedicated- can long endure.
We are met on a great battlefield of that war: we have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that Nation might live...
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate- we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow, this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract...
It is, rather, for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us- that, from these honored dead, we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion: that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain- that this Nation under God shall have a new birth of Freedom and that Government of the People, by the People, for the People shall not perish from the Earth.--
President ABRAHAM LINCOLN, the Gettysburg Address: 19 November 1863
[A]bove all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to- it belongs to you. It belongs to you. I was never the likeliest candidate for this Office... Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington... It drew strength from... the millions of Americans who volunteered and organized and proved that, more than two centuries later, a Government of the People, by the People and for the People has not perished from the Earth. This is your victory and I know you didn't do this just to win an election- and I know you didn't do it for me: you did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For, even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime: two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century...
Let's remember that it was a man from this State who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House: a Party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual Liberty and national unity. Those are values that we all share and, while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a Nation far more divided than ours: We are not enemies but friends: though passion may have strained, it must not break, our bonds of affection...
Tonight we proved- once more- that the true strength of our Nation comes, not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: Democracy, Liberty, Opportunity and unyielding Hope. That's the true genius of America- that America can change: Our Union can be perfected- what we've already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.
President-elect BARACK OBAMA- Victory Speech in Chicago's Grant Park: 4 November 2008