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Lincoln Bicentennial Celebration


Location: Washington, DC

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Remarks of U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell

The Rotunda, U.S. Capitol, February 12, 2009

"I want to especially thank President Obama for being here. I thank Speaker Pelosi, Leader Boehner, Leader Reid and the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission for making this event possible. I also thank my good friend Senator Bunning for his work on the Commission.

"The people of my state are rightly proud of the fact that Abraham Lincoln was born three miles south of Hodgenville, Kentucky. The man who would write the Gettysburg Address was raised in a log cabin with a dirt floor by parents who could not even sign their own names. Indeed, the life of our 16th President is perhaps the greatest proof we have that, in America, a person's dreams are limited only by his or her desire to achieve them.

"Yet Lincoln's greatness does not lie in the mere achievement of a personal goal. Rather, it lies in the greatness of his soul. Many have blazed a trail of success; but few have done more than this son of Hodgenville to make it possible for so many others to do the same.

"Choosing a single, powerful quote from Lincoln is not hard to do. Some regard his Second Inaugural as perhaps the greatest piece of political rhetoric in history. There are many other masterpieces. Today I prefer a quote that reveals something about Lincoln's inner life.

"As late as 1864, it looked as though the Union Army could still lose the Civil War. But, after a certain battle, Lincoln realized that General Grant was a man who would persevere to the bitter end to keep the Union whole. At the moment of realization, Lincoln dashed off a short note to General Grant. It said simply: ‘I begin to see it. You will succeed. God bless you.'

"One gets the sense from Lincoln that sticking to what he knew was right would have been its own reward. But this note to Grant shows that Lincoln experienced something more than that. He was able to enjoy, if only for a moment, a stirring vision of victory as a reward for his perseverance.

"And on this anniversary of his birth, we can be glad to know he did."

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