The available evidence suggests that tonight’s memorial in Tucson will be over emotionalized, sensationalized and exploited. A catchy title and a logo, for a memorial?
There is another way to approach this moment. President Obama famously admires the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was tested like no president before or since has been tested, with a terrible civil war. At the height of that war, a time that was more poisonous and divided than our time by several orders of magnitude, President Lincoln consecrated a bloody battlefield with a brief speech that still echoes around the world. Re-reading that speech this morning, I’m struck both by its brevity — it is just around 270 words long — and by its humility, humanity and grace. The Gettysburg Address is one of the most beautiful and important speeches ever written. I don’t expect President Obama to match Lincoln’s famous address; our moment is nothing like Lincoln’s, and Lincoln was the greatest writer ever elected president. None of Lincoln’s words were focus grouped or poll tested. Part of their greatness lies in the fact that they reflect what he really thought about himself and the nation. But if Gettysburg serves as the model for the remarks the president delivers in Tucson tonight, Obama will show that he is finally growing into the task of being president of all the United States.