Lessons from Lin­coln and Dr. King

The Covington News - - OPINION - To find out more about Jackie Gin­grich Cush­man, and read fea­tures by other Cre­ators Syn­di­cate writ­ers and car­toon­ists, visit www.cre­ators.com.

My fa­vorite place in Wash­ing­ton is the Lin­coln Me­mo­rial. Its grand size, piv­otal lo­ca­tion and sweep­ing view of our cap­i­tal city are a back­drop for the in­spi­ra­tional ad­dresses in­scribed on its walls. Lin­coln’s sec­ond in­au­gu­ral ad­dress and his Get­tys­burg Ad­dress are there for all vis­i­tors to read.

In the Get­tys­burg Ad­dress, Lin­coln’s most well-known speech, he never uses the word “I” or “me;” in­stead, he fo­cuses on our na­tion.

He closes by ask­ing the na­tion to be more, to do more.

“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.”

In his sec­ond in­au­gu­ral ad­dress, Lin­coln closed with an­other call for Amer­i­cans to be more, to do more: “With mal­ice to­ward none, with char- ity for all, with firm­ness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to fin­ish the work we are in, to bind up the na­tion’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the bat­tle and for his widow and his or­phan, to do all which may achieve and cher­ish a just and last­ing peace among our­selves and with all na­tions.”

Eigh­teen steps be­low Lin­coln’s statue, Martin Luther King, Jr., de­liv­ered his “I Have a Dream” speech 50 years ago this week. His speech cul­mi­nated a day­long Jobs and Freedom march. The crowd was com­posed of more than 200,000 Amer­i­cans — black and white, north­ern and south­ern, chil­dren and adults.

Like the man whose statue was be­hind him, King used im­agery, scrip­ture and his­tory to con­nect with his au­di­ence. Like Lin­coln, he fo­cused on an op­ti­mistic view of the fu­ture and de­liv­ered an ad­dress that called for Amer­i­cans to work to­ward a higher goal.

In pro­vid­ing a vi­sion of what could be, he chal­lenged us to be more and to do more.

“Let us not wal­low in the val­ley of de­spair, I say to you to­day, my friends. And so even though we face the dif­fi­cul­ties of to­day and to­mor­row, 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. ... look­ing for­ward to 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! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

As we re­flect on the changes in the 150 years since Lin­coln is­sued the Eman­ci­pa­tion Procla­ma­tion and in the 50 years since King de­liv­ered his dream speech, let us con­tinue to chal­lenge our­selves and each other to be more; to do more; to know that as long as there is work to be done, that we must work to­gether for a brighter fu­ture.

It’s easy to tear down oth­ers, to cre­ate di­vi­sions and to alien­ate those who dif­fer from us.

It’s harder to look to­ward the larger pur­pose and pos­si­bil­i­ties that can hap­pen when we work to­gether.

With­out mal­ice, with char­ity, judged not on color, but on the con­tent of char­ac­ter, to re­ally be free at last — the legacy of Lin­coln and King.

To re­mem­ber that, for ev­ery gen­er­a­tion, we have to work to­gether to en­sure that govern­ment of the peo­ple, by the peo­ple, for the peo­ple, shall not per­ish from the earth.


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