Jack Kemp

No matter where we are on Feb. 12, every American from sea to shining sea will celebrate the 200th birthday of our greatest president -- Abraham Lincoln. Song, speech, pageant and ceremony will mark the occasion.

The nation's capital, where Lincoln helped preserve the Union, will offer numerous opportunities to celebrate. The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission hosts the national ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial, a birthday breakfast, and a Webcast teach-in available to students around the world.

Congress pays tribute in the Capitol Rotunda, and the Library of Congress opens its national exhibit.

Exhibits at several Smithsonian museums offer glimpses into the 16th president's life with photos, documents and artifacts. In celebrating Lincoln and his legacy of freedom, democracy and equality of opportunity, we celebrate the true meaning of America.

Few leaders in history have captured the hearts and minds of so many people in so many nations as Abraham Lincoln. He is so universally revered that he sometimes seems as much a president for the world as for our own country. From Springfield, Ill., to Warsaw, Poland, from Red Square to Tiananmen Square, Lincoln is an inspiration.

There is a very logical (SET ITAL) global (END ITAL) extension of Lincoln's view of the "American idea" -- that the principles enunciated in America's Declaration of Independence are universal, and that freedom is not just for some people, but for all people, and not just for one time, but for all time.

These ideals were the driving force behind Lincoln's life and his political career. The Declaration of Independence was so central to his politics, and so close to his heart, that in the bleak winter of 1861, on his journey from Springfield to the inauguration in Washington, he felt he had to stop at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

He knew the American experiment in democracy and freedom was in grave peril, as was his own life. And in the very building where the declaration was signed, Lincoln spoke of that "something in that Declaration giving liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but hope to the world for all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the weights should be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance."

And then Lincoln added the words that prophesied his destiny, and that of our nation: "If this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle, I was about to say that I would rather be assassinated on this spot than to surrender it."

Jack Kemp

Jack Kemp is Founder and Chairman of Kemp Partners and a contributing columnist to Townhall.com.
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