When President-elect Obama quoted Abraham Lincoln on the night of his election, he was acknowledging the transcendent qualities of vision and leadership that are always present, but often overlooked and neglected by pettiness, partisanship and petulance. As president, I believe Barack Obama can help lift us out of a narrow view of America into the ultimate vision of an America where, if you're born to be a mezzo-soprano or a master carpenter, nothing stands in your way of realizing your God-given potential.
Both Obama in his Chicago speech, and McCain in his marvelous concession speech, rose to this historic occasion by celebrating the things that unite us irrespective of our political party, our race or our socio-economic background.
My advice for you all is to understand that unity for our nation doesn't require uniformity or unanimity; it does require putting the good of our people ahead of what's good for mere political or personal advantage.
The party of Lincoln, (i.e., the GOP), needs to rethink and revisit its historic roots as a party of emancipation, liberation, civil rights and equality of opportunity for all. On the other hand, the party of Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and now Obama must put forth an agenda that understands that getting American growing again will require both Keynesian and classical incentive-oriented (supply-side) economic ideas. But there's time for political and economic advice in a later column (or two).
Let me end with an equally great historical irony of this election. Next year, as Obama is sworn in as our 44th president, we will celebrate the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth. I'm serving, along with former Rep. Bill Gray of Pennsylvania, on the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Board to help raise funds for this historic occasion. President-elect Obama's honoring of Lincoln in many of his speeches reminds us of how vital it is to elevate these ideas and ideals to our nation's consciousness and inculcate his principles at a time of such great challenges and even greater opportunities.
In fact, we kick off the Lincoln bicentennial celebration on Wednesday, Nov. 19, in Gettysburg, Pa. The great filmmaker Ken Burns will speak at the Soldier's National Cemetery on the 145th anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. On Thursday, Nov. 20, at Gettysburg College, we will have the first of 10 town hall forums, titled "Race, Freedom and Equality of Opportunity." I have the high honor of joining Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., Professor Allen Guezlo and Norman Bristol-Colon on the panel, with Professor Charles Branham as the moderator.
President-elect Obama talks of Abraham Lincoln's view of our nation as an "unfinished work." Well, isn't that equally true of all of us? Therefore let all of us strive to help him be a successful president, so as to help make America an even greater nation.