In 2009, we celebrated the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s
birthday and the inauguration of Barack Obama. The coincidence of one’s birthday and the other’s inauguration only enhanced the parallels between the two. They are the only successful candidates from Illinois, although both were born and raised elsewhere. They were both born poor, and in their own ways, self-made men. Lincoln grew up without his mother and with a father who was emotionally absent. Obama grew up without his father, and with a mother who was often gone. Both were lawyers and, in their own ways, quite successful. Lincoln was by far our most eloquent President, a craftsman of language who we still quote and read with awe. Obama is an orator of unusual ability, and while he may not write his own speeches (as Lincoln did), nevertheless, his eloquence and skill are part of his trademark. Both were accused of radicalism, when in fact, on most issues they are truly quite conservative and traditional. When they ran for President, opponents circulated scurrilous rumors about their religions—that Lincoln was a godless atheist and Obama was a Muslim. Neither was true, but both were designed to emotionally charge the opposition.