Just over 156 years ago, on August 22, 1864, another president spoke at the White House. Lincoln spoke not to a political party but to the One Hundred Sixty-sixth Ohio Regiment. Here’s what he said.
“I suppose you are going home to see your families and friends. For the service you have done in this great struggle in which we are engaged I present you sincere thanks for myself and the country.
I almost always feel inclined, when I happen to say anything to soldiers, to impress upon them in a few brief remarks the importance of success in this contest. It is not merely for to-day, but for all time to come that we should perpetuate for our children’s children this great and free government, which we have enjoyed all our lives. I beg you to remember this, not merely for my sake, but for yours. I happen temporarily to occupy this big White House. I am a living witness that any one of your children may look to come here as my father’s child has. It is in order that each of you may have through this free government which we have enjoyed, an open field and a fair chance for your industry, enterprise and intelligence; that you may all have equal privileges in the race of life, with all its desirable human aspirations. It is for this the struggle should be maintained, that we may not lose our birthright—not only for one, but for two or three years. The nation is worth fighting for, to secure such an inestimable jewel.”
March from Selma to Montgomery Alabama, 1965. Today is 50 days to Election Day 2018
Photographer Bruce Davidson, Magnum Photos
I am unsubscribing because you lost. You ran an ineffective campaign that I did spend a lot of time volunteering for as did many, many people but in the end you managed to lose what should have been an un-losable election and the rest of the country is paying for your hubris and incompetence. The only thing I would like to hear from you is that you are enjoying your well earned retirement and that you are exiting the public square to make space for new, fresh leadership who are untainted with your baggage. It is mostly underserved but you are tainted with baggage that makes you a lightning rod for the “vast right wing conspiracy” making you the single most effective mobilizing tool for their base. You need to understand that although we recognize your service to the country that does not mean that the country owes you anything and you have enjoyed much, much more than your “15 minutes of fame”. Please enjoy your retirement and create space for talented, untainted leadership to emerge to take our country back and save the republic that your hubris and electoral incompetence have placed at such risk.
When I try to explain my love affair with my adoptive country I start by explaining that America is a country based on an idea. That idea however is not a guarantee, it’s a promise. It is up to every generation to work and struggle to make the reality of the United States closer to its promise. All the ugliness and darkness that existed within the country’s borders and within its population did not magically vanish on a single day in January 2009. The beauty and the light did not magically vanish on a single day in January 2017. On July 4th each year I celebrate my opportunity as an adoptive American to be part of the journey to create a more perfect union. I wish the route of that journey was more direct but July 4th 2017 gave me just as many reasons to celebrate as every July 4th since I became a citizen of our proud republic.
“Precisely because the problem is one of temperament and character, it will not get better. It will get worse, as power intoxicates Trump and those around him. It will probably end in calamity—substantial domestic protest and violence, a breakdown of international economic relationships, the collapse of major alliances, or perhaps one or more new wars (even with China) on top of the ones we already have. It will not be surprising in the slightest if his term ends not in four or in eight years, but sooner, with impeachment or removal under the 25th Amendment. The sooner Americans get used to these likelihoods, the better.”
. . .
“This is one of those clarifying moments in American history, and like most such, it came upon us unawares, although historians in later years will be able to trace the deep and the contingent causes that brought us to this day. There is nothing to fear in this fact; rather, patriots should embrace it. The story of the United States is, as Lincoln put it, a perpetual story of “a rebirth of freedom” and not just its inheritance from the founding generation.”
. . .
“There was nothing unanticipated in this first disturbing week of the Trump administration. It will not get better. Americans should therefore steel themselves, and hold their representatives to account. Those in a position to take a stand should do so, and those who are not should lay the groundwork for a better day. There is nothing great about the America that Trump thinks he is going to make; but in the end, it is the greatness of America that will stop him.”
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
“To be a Jew is to be a stranger. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that this is why Abraham is commanded to leave land, home and father’s house; why, long before Joseph was born, Abraham was already told that his descendants would be “strangers in a land not their own”; why Moses had to suffer personal exile before assuming leadership of the people; why the Israelites underwent persecution before inheriting their own land; and why the Torah is so insistent that this experience – the retelling of the story on Pesach, along with the never-forgotten taste of the bread of affliction and the bitter herbs of slavery – should become a permanent part of their collective memory.”
. . .
“Why should you not hate the stranger? – asks the Torah. Because you once stood where he stands now. You know the heart of the stranger because you were once a stranger in the land of Egypt. If you are human, so is he. If he is less than human, so are you. You must fight the hatred in your heart as I once fought the greatest ruler and the strongest empire in the ancient world on your behalf. I made you into the world’s archetypal strangers so that you would fight for the rights of strangers – for your own and those of others, wherever they are, whoever they are, whatever the colour of their skin or the nature of their culture, because though they are not in your image – says G-d – they are nonetheless in Mine. There is only one reply strong enough to answer the question: Why should I not hate the stranger? Because the stranger is me.”