Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation

Adolf Schaller

One cannot hope to add to the completeness and universality of Lincoln's words. While every rereading becomes a renewal, the many very fine contributions of readers of The American Scholar on this occasion 150 years hence is a gratifying reaffirmation that the timeless truths of his speech live on. This is essential sustenance for any of us who are in peril of succumbing to the turbulent erosions that have increasingly afflicted our presumptions of who and what we stand for on national terms. We are today not any more rifted apart than we were then, despite the fresh recognitions and cheap cynicisms made by new generations over the challenges associated with operational democracy. But we are today inflamed with additional challenges, particularly as exploited by a particularly pernicious segment that perceives the freedom which democracy affords to all as an invitation to subvert it by promoting personal or corporate interest. Compared to Lincoln’s time, our challenges have been magnified by gargantuan amounts of money coupled with an astounding facility ironically made possible through the progress in technology and communications which only such democracy can have have fostered: as a result, the “American Scene” has become a marketplace instead of a civic responsibility. The American Scholar asks, "What would Lincoln say today?” Apart from its historical whim, certainly worthy, this turns out to be a very pertinent question on another tack. Indeed, we may ask such a question with every legitimacy. But it suggests another question: what CAN we, as citizens today, expect from any statesmen or women who are presented to the public, who pretend to supply us with the benefit of leadership without resorting to hired political advisors and writers to put words into their mouths specifically designed to resonate with what they have decided we have become, what the manipulators behind these candidates have decided constitute this nation: ‘CONSUMERS’. When can we again expect, as citizens of a democratic form of government, an authentic choice of candidates that exhibit their own ability to write their own speeches? When can we possibly have an authentic choice amongst candidates for office anywhere near to the sincerity of Abraham Lincoln? How hard can political sincerity be? When will we ever learn to recognize and snuff out any overtures by special interests to persuade or indoctrinate or otherwise PUSH us into the ongoing whirlpool of separating Americans along the idiotically false distinctions borne entirely of economic advantage? If he was alive today, Mr. Lincoln would have had plenty to say about our current predicament...unfortunately, the outcome may well have been similar. What we need is courage. And when that is strained to its limits, the answer is more courage. In the current vernacular of everybody telling everyone else what they ‘need’ to do, that much seems simple enough.