Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wills on Obama and Lincoln

Don't miss the precise and instructive essay by Garry Wills comparing Abraham Lincoln's Cooper Union address with Barack Obama's Philadelphia speech on race. It appears in the May 1 issue of the New York Review of Books.
In his prose, Obama of necessity lagged far behind the resplendent Lincoln. But what is of lasting interest is their similar strategy for meeting the charge of extremism. Both argued against the politics of fear. Neither denied the darker aspects of our history, yet they held out hope for what Lincoln called here the better "lights of current experience"—what he would later call the "better angels of our nature." Each looked for larger patterns under the surface bitternesses of their day. Each forged a moral position that rose above the occasions for their speaking.

Garry Wills, "Two Speeches on Race," New York Review of Books, 1 May 2008

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