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History Envisioned, Revisited


As President Obama readies for his second inaugural (he’s officially been sworn in but the ceremony is Monday, January 21) it’s hard not to think of President Lincoln’s. Lincoln gave his second inaugural speech on March 5, 1865. He was shot on April 14, 1865. President Obama will give his speech on Martin Luther King, Jr. day. King was shot on April 4, 1968. Why all of this maudlin attention on the eve of President Obama’s celebratory moment? It’s only to point out the state of the things right now in America. There is so much conflict now, so many angry citizens who can’t accept that 150 years after Lincoln’s assassination, a black man is our President. Tavis Smiley’s commentary on Obama and Martin Luther King points to how much change is still ahead, pointing to drone strikes and continuing poverty. He’s right, of course, but you have to start somewhere. Lincoln might be a little stunned to see where America is on January 21, 2013.

In the meantime, the ending of Spielberg’s Lincoln pointed very specifically to Lincoln’s second inaugural address because he throws the ball back to us Americans and calls for a lasting peace:

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.

What does any of this have to do with the Oscar race? Why, everything, of course. Either the politics and conflicts of today will resonate with voters or they will do what they’ve done in the past during times of strife and fling themselves into the feelgood rom-com. We don’t yet know but it is probably human nature to back away from the flame, whether an enduring one or not.