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Lincoln and Obama


Published April 15, 2008 at 3:33 p.m.

Garry Wills analyzes "Two Speeches on Race" — Abraham Lincoln's, at Copper Union in New York City on Feb. 27, 1860, and Barack Obama's March 18 address at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

. . . what is of lasting interest is their similar strategy for meeting thecharge of extremism. Both argued against the politics of fear. Neitherdenied the darker aspects of our history, yet they held out hope forwhat Lincoln called here the better "lights of current experience"—whathe would later call the "better angels of our nature." Each looked forlarger patterns under the surface bitternesses of their day. Eachforged a moral position that rose above the occasions for theirspeaking.