Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.

- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The measure of a man

Countless stories have been told about how Abraham Lincoln met with war widows in the White House, pardoned Union deserters, and spent his happier moments among wounded soldiers at the Soldier's Home - how he cared for and about the citizens of this country and especially those who were suffering.

Barack Obama is proving to be the same kind of man.

Yesterday I read an account of one incident that reminded me very much of Lincoln.

Obama campaign workers were out canvassing a neighborhood when they came to a house where the people were literally out of food. The landlady had a long list of grievances against the government: her husband, a Vietnam vet, had died from exposure to Agent Orange, and she had been forced to pay back all of his medical expenses herself - over the course of twelve years - when the VA had refused or dragged their feet. She apparently told the canvassers about her daughter, a marine, who is on her second deployment to Iraq but can't come home due to 'Stop Loss.'

This story was first told by a man who lived in the house, and had been out 'scrounging for scrap metal' at the time, in order to buy a little food for the two of them:

I was out scrounging scrap metal today, to get enough food money to last us through the weekend.

I came home and Miss Johnnie, my landlady, was crying and showing me a table full of food.

I thought one of our friends or my relatives had come over and bought for us.

But it was bought, according to the lady who owns the restaurant, by Barack Obama over the phone.

Apparently the campaign canvassers had reached Obama and he spoke directly to the lady on the phone, before secretly ordering the food and arranging for delivery to the house.

This would have stayed under wraps - Obama had apparently told the restaurant not to tell anyone it was from him - but the people found out, the man wrote a comment and someone on Daily Kos picked up on the story.

Things like this have a way of getting out; and not by being deliberately trumpeted (like 'Joe the Plumber') 15 times in a debate. Good deeds done in private show the real measure of a man.

Today, another story from Wisconsin.

It started with violence: a McCain Palin supporter apparently attacked an Obama canvasser from Chicago who came to his door:

Nancy Takehara of Chicago says she was going door-to-door when she came across a disgruntled homeowner.

"The next thing I know he’s telling us we’re not his people, we’re probably with ACORN, and he started screaming and raving," Takehara said. "He grabbed me by the back of the neck. I thought he was going to rip my hair out of my head. He was pounding on my head and screaming. The man terrified me."

Apparently Obama got wind of the incident and spoke with Takehara on the phone.

"This negative stuff has to stop," said Takehara. "We’re all Americans. This is all about protecting our democracy, not about attacking each other."

Takehara was encouraged when she had a message waiting at home from the candidate she is fighting for. Takehara called back and she and Senator Obama talked one-on-one.

Takehara said, "Senator Obama understood… it was wonderful. It made me feel wonderful. It made me feel connected to this government again."

The Obama campaign did not want to comment on the incident at this time.

Yes, I imagine that Obama understands all too well.

So did Lincoln. Both Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama grew up in the Midwest, among the working class. Both were raised by one parent, both worked hard and studied diligently... both decided that they could best serve their country by entering into politics, but each retained a deep understanding of their fellow man - an understanding born out of a shared experience, a shared struggle.

Both Lincoln and Barack Obama shared a vision of a better America; one without the hate, mistrust and divisions between American citizens. "A house divided against itself cannot stand," noted Lincoln during his own run for the presidency. McCain and Palin would do well to note that this still holds true today. The violence and hatred they are trying to stir up has the potential of tearing this country apart, as it did in 1861.

Obama's America has room for everyone, and compassion for those who are struggling in these hard economic times. Barack Obama understands this kind of struggle from personal experience; experience that seems to have forged in him a great personal character and real compassion.

Compassion is not exactly an emotion that you will see on display at a McCain/Palin rally. But perhaps it the legacy of an earlier senator from Illinois, one who became our nation's greatest president.

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