Vox Populi: The O'Shaughnessy Files

By William O’Shaughnessy | Go to book overview

ADVICE FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA
FROM PRESIDENT LINCOLN
VIA GOVERNOR CUOMO

Mario Cuomo once told me that he finds President Obama
to be one of the most articulate of our presidents. With
all the daunting challenges facing our young president, the
governor was reminded of the trials and tribulations of
Mr. Lincoln. These are Governor Cuomo’s thoughts,
delivered on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009.

On February 12, three weeks into the administration of our fortyfourth president, Barack Obama, America will mark the two hundredth birthday of our sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln— considered by most historians to be our greatest president ever.

The competition by presidents and presidential candidates to claim the mantle of Lincoln in ways big and small has come to embrace all political faiths. Obama is no exception. He will be the first president to be sworn in on the same Bible used by Lincoln in 1861, having arrived in Washington from Philadelphia by train as Lincoln had, and he has mentioned several times that he is studying Lincoln’s speeches for help in preparing his own inaugural address.

Obama’s inauguration started what will be the most challenge-ridden presidential term since Lincoln’s. Only history will eventually tell us how it compares with Lincoln’s, but there are already apparent similarities and differences in their personalities, positions, and situations that indicate the kind of leadership we can expect from Obama.

Obama, like Lincoln, has superb personal gifts: a brilliant analytical mind, riveting oratorical and writing abilities, and the capability to remain calm under fire. Both were born and raised in modest circumstances. Neither had significant executive experience before becoming president, and both were considered underdogs at the outset of their campaigns.

Obama, like Lincoln, rejects rigid ideology in policymaking, relying instead on common sense, benign pragmatism, and an

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