There are calls in the news these days from worried politicians wringing their hands over gridlock in congress. The crisis of the hour concerns money; one faction wants to keep spending it as though there is no tomorrow; the other insists that tomorrow was yesterday and the spending must stop. Both sides are intractable, nothing gets done. This has led some of our more timid hearted “Leaders” to call for a suspension of elections untill this crisis can be weathered. The first thought that comes to mind is — “Leaders” should be made of sterner stuff. The second thought is — let’s run that one by Old Abe. He’s sitting there on his marble chair gazing out across the reflecting pool, past the Washington Monument at the Capital beyond. At his right is the Korean War memorial, to his left the long open grave with 58,000 names of the best and brightest from two generations ago.
Let us bring those “Leaders” who are losing faith in the people they took an oath to serve, to Lincoln’s chair. Let them stand at his foot, look him square in the eye and explain, while the cameras record this great moment, how the crisis they face out weighs the one he gave his life to.
In 1864 this nation was split in half, “engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.” The answer was not at all clear to those who heard those words or to the man who spoke them. From the moment he took the oath, Abraham Lincoln faced the greatest crisis any nation can face, civil war. On a battle front that stretched a thousand miles in every direction over a million men from every corner of the country tore at each other with a savagery that defies description. The dead numbered in the hundreds of thousands.
In and out of government there was no shortage of people who had lost faith in the idea that was America. From senators, congressmen, newspapers and citizens came daily calls to suspend elections untill the crisis could be weathered. To allow the “Leaders” to solve our problems without the burden of standing for election. The temptation was overwhelming. But America was singularly blessed with a man who could see through the smoke and dust of the calamity raging around him, and into the future. He knew that wounds can be healed, things destroyed can be rebuilt, but principles, once they are broken, cannot be remade.
In the midst of the Civil War, with the slaughter stretching out of sight, the opposition throwing every possible slander at him, active treason in the ranks of his opponents, Abraham Lincoln held the first principle of this nation to be inviolate; We The People; not we the leaders, we the pundits, or we the experts. But We the People. Every thing else is replaceable, that is not.