My daughters, then the same ages Malia and Sasha Obama are today, followed me along the Reflection Pond and up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
There, in the artificial glow, the liberator sat slumped in his marble chair. Tourists milled around the statue.
As a boy from Illinois, I learned most of the Gettysburg Address by heart. It is chiseled around the inside of the monument. It is a message of hope.
I began reading the words to my children.
Halfway through that short speech, I realized other visitors started listening to me. I should have been embarrassed. I was not, and continued.
This year is the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. Last week marked the anniversary of his death. How remarkable that he still lives large along with his words.
Lincoln saw the end of the Civil War, but not the rebuilding of his beloved country.
I write this because on the local level — and the national level — we need to hear words of hope. We need to believe that we can recreate and reinvent ourselves into a new nation.
The people of Tracy, rightfully cynical about an evil world, have the ability to change that world. The people of the United States, now 50 states strong, can forge a new nation.
Lincoln was much like us. He grew up in a time of economic uncertainty. He struggled for education. He had a vision for himself, his family and his nation.
Lincoln was likely bipolar, not known as handsome and deeply troubled, even in his broad sense of humor. His hope was not in himself or even in those around him. His hope was in the basic goodness of the human spirit and in history itself.
He knew his imperfections and worked around them.
That is why there are memorials to him in Washington, D.C., Springfield, Ill., and in almost every city across the land.
Most inscriptions conclude “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.”
May Malia, Sasha, you and I believe that message of hope.
• Mike McLellan can be contacted by calling and leaving a message at 830-4201 or emailing him at DrMikeM@sbcglobal.net.