President Obama has long cited his fellow president from Illinois in defining moments of his political career.
He announced his presidential candidacy in Springfield, Ill., Abraham Lincoln's hometown. He studied up on Lincoln's writings shortly after winning his first election in 2008. He framed his first inaugural address after that of the Great Emancipator, ripping its title from a line in the Gettysburg Address. On a number of occasions, he's quoted (and even misquoted) the 16th president to drive home a point.
And on Tuesday, as the president delivers the final State of the Union address of his presidency, a speech the White House is billing as non-traditional and forward-looking, Obama will again recall the words of Honest Abe.
"America has been through big changes before – wars and depression, the influx of immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, and movements to expand civil rights," he will say, according to excerpts of his speech released before the address. " Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change, promising to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control. And each time, we overcame those fears. We did not, in the words of Lincoln, adhere to the “dogmas of the quiet past.” Instead we thought anew, and acted anew. "
President Obama pulls the line "dogmas of the quiet past" from Lincoln's second annual address to Congress, which is considered among the best State of the Union addresses in the nation's history. The president offered a rebuke of slavery as the root cause of the Civil War and mulled freeing the enslaved in order to save the Union, shortly before issuing the Emancipation Proclamation January 1863. "The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation," Lincoln wrote. "In giving freedom to the slave we assure freedom to the free...We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope of earth. "
The quote Obama pulls appears in the following passage:
Is it doubted, then, that the plan I propose, if adopted, would shorten the war, and thus lessen its expenditure of money and of blood? Is it doubted that it would restore the national authority and national prosperity and perpetuate both indefinitely? Is it doubted that we here--Congress and Executive can secure its adoption? Will not the good people respond to a united and earnest appeal from us? Can we, can they, by any other means so certainly or so speedily assure these vital objects? We can succeed only by concert. It is not "Can any of us imagine better?" but "Can we all do better?" Object whatsoever is possible, still the question recurs, "Can we do better?" The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.
In a way, Obama's suggesting the same thing. The excerpts provided show that Obama will call on politicians to overcome fear and disagreement to help usher the country forward for future generations.
Throughout history, he'll say, "We made change work for us, always extending America’s promise outward, to the next frontier, to more and more people. And because we did – because we saw opportunity where others saw only peril – we emerged stronger and better than before.”