Last night, as President Bush concluded his 9/11 address to the nation, I caught of few mystic chords of memory flowing through his speech. His writers, I believe, borrowed a cadence of words from the best politician-poet of our history - Abraham Lincoln.
Among presidents in wartime, none rose to command respect and achieve success like Abraham Lincoln. The rail-splitter from Illinois is already big, but he's just going to get bigger in the next three years. The 200th anniversary of his birth is February 12th, 2009, and legions of his admirers are working hard to make sure that a Lincoln-loving festival is in full swing by the time that date rolls around. Steven Spielberg is even making a movie, with Irish-born actor Liam Neeson cast as the president, based on Doris Kearns Goodwin's excellent 2005 chronicle, Team of Rivals, which illuminates Lincoln's masterful political touch.
But back to the speech. Last night Bush concluded with this sentence:
"And we go forward with trust in that spirit, confidence in our purpose, and faith in a loving God who made us to be free."
Good Bible study and Old Testament stuff, with the rhythym of a civil rights preacher. Bush has echoed this theme in several prior speeches, including his 2003 State of the Union address. It's also a cadence that is a complete departure from his normally disjointed and unpunctuated speaking style.
And to conclude his Gettysburg Address in November 1863, Lincoln said this:
"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--and 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."
Lincoln's oration is immortal, and so are certain phrases and sounds from this speech. I don't fault President Bush from standing on the shoulders of history, he needs as much additional perspective as he can get. I just think his speech last night is yet another example of how Abraham Lincoln, although not one of the original Founding Fathers of our country, is the son who made, and continues to make it, a great nation.