Saturday, January 17, 2009

Obama and Lincoln's Bible

Lots has been made of the explicit echoes of Lincoln made by Barack Obama leading up to his inauguration. Many of these have been prominent -- he is journeying to Washington by train, he will take the oath of office on the Lincoln Bible. Some have been quiet -- when he accepted the Democratic nomination, Obama said: "I accept your nomination for presidency of the United States," which has definite 19th century echoes.

One hopes that these echoes of Lincoln will not be strictly followed. It might be odd if the rhetorical punch line of Obama's inaugural address, echoing Lincoln's, is "In your hands, my dissatisfied countrymen, and not in mine is the momentous issue of civil war."

But might there be something more to these echoes than a lengthy tip of the hat to the legacy of Lincoln? Personally, I've always thought that Obama was just a Lincolnophile who's paying honor to someone he greatly admires, who hopes that some of Lincoln's greatness will rub off on him. But an opinion column from frequent Lincoln writer Ronald C. White, Jr. suggests there might be more going on here.

In this column, White intriguingly suggests that Obama may hint at a role for religion in his presidency similar to its radical role in Lincoln's administration. I'm not sure if I agree with White's analysis (I frequently don't), but it is certainly the most thoughtful thing I've read pertaining to Obama's use of the Lincoln Bible.

No comments: