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On Feb. 10, 2007, Illinois senator and former civil rights lawyer Barack Obama declared his candidacy for the U.S. presidency.
How fitting that Obama – now the first black president-elect – made the announcement while standing in front of the same building Abraham Lincoln made his famous “House Divided” speech against slavery 150 years ago.
Like Lincoln, Obama asked his country for unity.
“This campaign has to be about reclaiming the meaning of citizenship, restoring our sense of common purpose, and realizing that few obstacles can withstand the power of millions of voices calling for change,” he said. “By ourselves, this change will not happen. Divided, we are bound to fail.”
Throughout the campaign, he continued to compare himself to Lincoln, the “tall gangly self-made Springfield lawyer,” who was born in Hodgenville, but staked his political future in Illinois.
When Obama is sworn into office Jan. 20, he’ll place his hand on the same Bible used at the inauguration of Lincoln – the president who emancipated the slaves during the Civil War.
Even the theme of Obama’s Inauguration is taken from a line in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: “A New Birth of Freedom.”
Obama will be the first president since Lincoln to use that Bible, according to the Library of Congress. It was originally purchased by William Thomas Carroll, clerk of the Supreme Court, just for the inauguration. It is bound in burgundy velvet and was published by the Oxford University Press in 1853.
In the back of the Bible is a note, along with a Supreme Court Seal, “I, William Thomas Carroll, clerk of the said court do hereby certify that the preceding copy of the Holy Bible is that upon which the Honorable. R.B. Taney, Chief Justice of the said Court, administered to His Excellency, Abraham Lincoln, the oath of office as President of the United States.”
“I think it’s really neat he’s chosen Lincoln’s Bible,” said Russell Hinkle, who campaigned extensively for the Obama camp. “I understand there’s a variety he could have chosen from.”
Hinkle, who held a Democratic platform for Obama at his White City home in July, has been invited to the inauguration, but will not attend.
“Pomp and circumstance is not really my thing,” Hinkle said.
Instead, he will organize a community service project in honor of the inauguration, as requested on the invitation.
It’s a fitting tribute to the campaign which focused so much on “hope,” he said. The invitation suggests the endeavors be completed on Jan. 19 – Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Suggestions for projects can be found at http://usaservice.org
Hinkle, who works at The Lincoln Museum, said there are many similarities between the president-elect and the Great Emancipator, but mostly, he sees Obama’s deep admiration for Lincoln.
“Henry Clay was Lincoln’s idol,” Hinkle said. “I think Lincoln is definitely someone (Obama) looks up to.”
The Lincoln Inaugural Bible will go on display at the Library of Congress Feb. 12 to May 9, as part of a Lincoln Bicentennial exhibition.