Magazine article USA TODAY

Can Obama Measure Up to Lincoln?

Magazine article USA TODAY

Can Obama Measure Up to Lincoln?

Article excerpt

The connections between Barack Obama and Abraham Lincoln define Obama's image today, but these associations also influence how Lincoln will continue to be remembered, indicates a historian from Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind.

"Lincoln, who was born 200 years ago, is known as a great speechwriter, thinker, and consensus builder," notes Caroline E. Janney, an assistant professor of history. "While people are watching how Obama is following Lincoln, many may not realize that today's president is shaping the way we remember the 16th president. Memory is always crafted by its contemporary context."

Janney says one type of memory is called collective and refers to the ways in which different groups reconstruct the past by adapting historical facts to fit the present. When individuals look to the past, or their perceived sense of it, they often create a sense of community. For instance, white Southerners still may look to their region's Confederate history to create a common bond, while those from Illinois may refer to themselves as from the "land of Lincoln." They use the past to create a community among people in the present.

Using historical facts to fill in the needs of the present in reconstructing the past creates a collective memory. For instance, how people from the North and South remember Lincoln differs, and those differences, when expressed in each region's monuments and memorials, create a sense of community for those who share a common past. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.