Monday is President Lincoln’s birthday. I am not a historian and I am not his biographer, but I do know a few things about Mr. Lincoln which speak to our moment. He believed deeply that America was an idea worth fighting for, and that its best days were always ahead of it.
We face significant challenges today, but I write to you with a message of hope which I have seen growing since the start of this campaign.
A few weeks ago I came across a photograph of the Lincoln Memorial before the Reflecting Pool was built in front of it. I was struck by the thought of how impressive the America of today—fewer than 100 years later—would appear to that photographer. We have made amazing advances in civil rights, transportation, information and communication technologies, and so much more.
What will come of the next American century, though? Will we continue to attack and hate our fellow Americans simply because they have chosen a different political party? Will we lose faith in our collective ability to tackle big projects, to invest in the future, to care for the planet and for each other? Will we continue to retreat from our position as the source of global order, and as a force of moral leadership?
We will not. We will not, because we cannot. We will not, because we are stronger than that. We will not, because America has faced darker days before, and has always persisted.
This campaign is a small piece of a much larger nationwide struggle, but I think it has given me some insight into where things stand. People don’t like fighting with their neighbors, and they don’t like endlessly arguing online about who to blame for the outrage of the day. We are a country of people who care about each other, and we are tired of being manipulated into believing otherwise. I have met so many people who, for the past year or so, have spent countless hours trying to bring back what we seem to have lost. They are organizing people, starting conversations, coordinating film festivals, contributing to charities, registering voters, and engaging in random acts of kindness. I have seen our collective potential, and it is undeniable.
History has its eyes on you. The stakes right now are high, and believing in a brighter future can be hard. Some people confuse optimism with naiveté; those people are wrong. Turn off the cable news network, visit or call your neighbors, or stop and chat with strangers on the sidewalk (take it from this budding politician: it’s surprisingly fun). Talk about the issues that matter in your community. I bet you have a lot more in common than you think. I bet you’ll be glad you did it. I bet America’s best days are still ahead of it.