The headlines of today’s papers and online news services note the celebration today of the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. Without doubt, each of the tributes – from the reopening of Ford’s Theater in time for a one man show to profile the man to the classroom lessons in schools throughout the country – are well deserved.
Several years ago, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo wrote Why Lincoln Matters, guided by the notion that Lincoln (and his writings) are still quite relevant to contemporary American politics. President Obama frequently cites Lincoln in his speeches and clearly stated his admiration for Lincoln in a 2005 essay for Time magazine. He cited Lincoln’s “humble beginnings,” as well as his “rise from poverty, his ultimate mastery of language and law, his capacity to overcome personal loss and remain determined in the face of repeated defeat.”
For that reason – and many others – Lincoln’s words still are relevant and perhaps today MOST relevant beyond U.S. shores he governed as the 16th President of the United States. Lincoln is widely known for his role in leading America through the dark time of the Civil War and the underlying issue of slavery. The Democracy Program, which recommended the creation of the National Endowment for Democracy (and one of the core institutes the Center for International Private Enterprise) reminded us of this when the report authors quoted Lincoln in the bipartisan report submitted to President Ronald Reagan in 1983:
“As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy.” Abraham Lincoln (1858)
And so, in our work here at CIPE, Lincoln resonates still – as we partner with groups throughout the world for basic freedoms – personal, political and economic. And what we see again in these freedoms is that they are inextricably connected.