By Betsy Thorpe
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 19, 1863
From the onset of his campaign in 2007 Barack Obama channeled the memory of Abraham Lincoln, by announcing his candidacy on the steps of the old State Courthouse in Springfield Illinois where Lincoln gave his famous “House Divided” speech in 1858. Throughout the campaign, Obama often called on the memory of Lincoln to combat criticism that as a first term senator he lacked the national political experience necessary to be president. Following his election the President-elect put three former Democratic presidential primary opponents in his Cabinet, modeling his administration after Lincoln’s “team of rivals”. At a dinner party last week he symbolically took a drink out of a “Lincoln glass” now owned by columnist George Wills. On Saturday the Obama family arrived in the Capitol by rail following the Lincoln family’s 1861 journey from Springfield Illinois to Washington. On Sunday Obama hosted a concert at the Lincoln Monument. This morning when President Obama took the oath of office his left hand was placed on President Lincoln’s inaugural Bible. At the traditional Inaugural Luncheon held at Congress’s Statuary Hall, oysters, duck, pheasant, winter vegetables and apple cake was served on replicas of china picked out by Mary Todd Lincoln. The meal was prepared using President Lincoln’s favorite foods. The Joint Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies chose “A New Birth Of Freedom” from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address as the theme for the historic inauguration.
Dr. Palace Pillow-McCuthen, an early supporter of Barack Obama’s bid for the presidency is a Tennessee native and a TSU alumni who relocated to Nashville after living in Chicago for many years. In Chicago she was on staff at Lincoln Elementary School and also worked to recruit children from the Cabrini Green housing project for the Head Start Program and she sat on the board of several Chicago based community service groups and organizations. She is particularly pleased by the Inaugural Committee choosing “A New Birth Of Freedom” as the theme for President Obama’s inauguration. A commemorative glass plate inscribed with the Gettysburg Address hangs on the wall in her kitchen.
In 1954 Palace Pillow graduated eighth grade at Perry Hill Elementary in Columbia Tennessee, a segregated country school where one teacher, Miss Hatchet taught all subjects and grades. As the graduating class Salutatorian she was assigned to recite the Gettysburg Address during the commencement ceremony. The young student committed the address to memory and heart and throughout her life she has relied on it’s hopeful message “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.”
Shortly before today’s historic events began in Washington, Palace Pillow McCuthen said, “In Dr. King’s last speech he said I’ve been to the mountain top, I’ve looked over, I’ve seen the Promised Land, I may not get there with you, but we as a people will get there………. I feel like he knew he wouldn’t see this but he knew this day would come. Well now it’s here”.
Today, Dr. Palace Pillow-McCuthen a woman who holds a Doctorate in psycho -therapy, issued by the University of Illinois, a woman who as a child was forced by law to receive her early education in a tiny segregated school house, stood in our nations capitol with more than two million of her peers and fellow citizens and witnessed the swearing-in of Barack Obama as the forty fourth President of a nation that was “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”