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Public Statements

The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Celebration

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, today on February 12, America celebrates the birthday of the greatest leader our country has ever produced. And my home State of Kentucky has a front-row seat in the celebration.

Abraham Lincoln was born February 12, 1809, in a log cabin 3 miles south of Hodgenville, KY. The one-room cabin measured 16 by 18 feet, had a dirt floor, and no glass in the windows.

The future President was born with no advantages in life except for a strong curiosity and a sterling character. By the end of his life, this man of humble background had united our country by demonstrating leadership during America's time of greatest crisis, and he showed our country the true value of the Declaration of Independence by asserting that there must be no exceptions to the ideal that all men are created equal.

Two centuries later, America looks back with gratitude at our 16th President by celebrating the Lincoln Bicentennial. The Commonwealth of Kentucky can take special pride in the fact that Lincoln was one of our own, and the Lincoln Bicentennial's opening ceremonies will take place in Hodgenville. So begins a 2-year event celebrating the great emancipator's life and legacy. All across the country, from the State capital in Springfield, IL, where Lincoln served as a legislator, to here in Washington, DC, where Lincoln served as a wartime Commander in Chief, Americans will celebrate this important figure in our national story.

This time will be exciting for teachers, students, and any adult who loves American history. I know Kentucky's friendly neighbors to the north in Illinois often claim Lincoln as their own. Their license plates even say so. But Lincoln was born and spent his formative years in Kentucky, which surely must have shaped the man he became, and he would never have denied his Kentuckian heritage.

In fact, in 1861, as he traveled east to Washington to begin his term as President, Lincoln wrote a speech that he intended to deliver in Kentucky but never got a chance to do. In it, he crafted these words: ``Gentlemen, I too, am a Kentuckian.''

So it is appropriate that the Lincoln Bicentennial celebration begins in the same State that the man himself did. I hope every Kentuckian and every American will take advantage of this opportunity to explore this exciting chapter in American history.

I yield the floor.

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