By Chris Matthews
Last night was a special evening here in Washington. Kathy and I were at Ford’s Theater for the 200th Anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth.
It was the grand re-opening of that old theater where tragedy struck that Good Friday of 1865.
I felt the history being made as President Barack Obama came down the aisle with First Lady Michelle to take their seats in the first row.
I wonder what it must have been like last night to be our new president standing in that place, on the very stage of Ford’s Theater, surrounded by such history in a place so tied to our feelings, even our country’s recurring sense of remorse about this noble man Abraham Lincoln.
I think back to the frozen day in Springfield, Illinois, in the cold yet sunny winter of 2007 when the junior senator from that state strode out before a crowd of 17,000 in three degree weather to speak in a public space between the State Capitol where young Lincoln served as state legislature and his law office across the street and upstairs on the corner building.
In Ford’s Theater last night we were reminded that Lincoln’s greatest words came in that daunting Second Inaugural, what could be the greatest speech ever given in this country, words he spoke just weeks before his death as the great Civil War was coming to an end.
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
Here is President Obama today in the Capitol Rotunda at a ceremony on Lincoln’s 200th birthday:
“I cannot claim to know as much about his life and works as many of those who are also speaking today, but I can say that I feel a special gratitude to this singular figure who in so many ways made my own story possible and who in so many ways made America’s story possible.
As we meet here today, at a moment when we are far less divided than in Lincoln’s day, but when we are once again debating the critical issues of our time - and debating them fiercely - let us remember that we are doing so as servants to the same flag, as representatives of the same people, and as stakeholders in a common future.”