Barack Obama has made no secret of his admiration for Abraham Lincoln, reinforcing comparisons made by some analysts. He chose to announce his candiditure in Springfield, Illinois, where Lincoln began his political career.
“And that is why, in the shadow of the Old State Capitol, where Lincoln once called on a divided house to stand together, where common hopes and common dreams still, I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for President of the United States,” said Obama. Whether or not comparisons are warranted, a number of historical parallels can be made. Obama and Lincoln both started out in the Illinois state legislature. They rose to prominence partly on the strength of their oratory and pursued similar political themes of the need for unity and change. They also both came to power in times of national crisis. Observers looking for similarities could also point to the fact that both Obama and Lincoln appointed former political rivals as Secretary of State. Obama says he values humility as a political virtue, Lincoln is said to have shared that view. The incoming president’s pre-inauguration tour follows the route taken by Lincoln. Starting in Philadelphia, the stops include Baltimore, historically a haven for freed slaves. The journey will, of course, end in Washington where Obama will be sworn-in on the bible used by Lincoln for his inauguration. Some think Obama may be going a little too far. But great expectations remain. Millions of US citizens, particularly African-Americans, feel they are on the verge of a new era, just as their ancestors did.