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Justin Dillon Headshot

I'm With Lincoln

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In his acceptance speech at the Oscars, Daniel Day-Lewis acknowledged "the mysteriously beautiful mind, body and spirit of Abraham Lincoln." That night one of the greatest actors of our time received an award for portraying one of the greatest historical figures of all time. Lincoln's accomplishments are memorialized in word, paint, stone, and now beautifully in film.

One hundred fifty years after his arduous fight to free the slaves, it's reasonable for us all to say "I'm With Lincoln." My country's opposition to slavery is not just something we did, its something we are. Today, however, we are still struggling to live up to that ideal.

For the last six years I've been working to awaken the public to the reality of modern-day slavery and provide everyone with low-shelf opportunities to take action. In that time I've sat down with leaders of business, government and culture who are all genuinely sympathetic, but more than some express concerns that the issue is too complex, complicated and controversial. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak. I believe the modern-day abolitionist movement is currently in a bit of a "blinking game." The ivory towers of commerce and government, which are supposed to represent our collective priorities, are having trouble publicly aligning themselves with our deepest national conviction. This concerns me. When did aligning yourself with freedom become controversial? Didn't we move past dealing with slavery as a controversial issue a long time ago? How are we OK with our government allocating five times as much funding to the management of wild burros in 2009 as it does helping victims of slavery in the U.S.? This denotes more about how we balance our priorities, than it does about how we balance our budget.

The truth is that it's not just our leader's fault. One challenge that many leaders face, both in government and business, consider engaging, or even talking about, the issue of slavery a PR risk by communication departments. This is fantastically unacceptable and the responsibility to fix it falls on both sides of the cash register and voting booth.

Go to Hollywood Blvd, Wall St., or Constitution Ave and you will find individuals licking their finger and sticking it in the air to gauge the direction of the wind. We are the wind. We need to make it clear that addressing modern slavery is not only a human rights issue, it's a function of our identity.

We're creating controversy over something incontrovertible. The very shape of Lincoln's shadow is an icon of freedom. Our nation's capital, and our very nation itself, operates from within that shadow. It's time we step out from the shadows and declare "I'm With Lincoln." We won't accept calling modern slavery complex, complicated, or controversial. Lincoln may have used those words, but he won so we don't have to.

My organization, Made In A Free World, has produced a video advocacy campaign (directed by Noam Murrow) entitled I'm With Lincoln (PG-13). Its aim is to dramatically represent the issue while reconnecting us with our incontrovertible belief that all shall be "henceforth and forever free". This is a defining moment for America to inhabit its ideals. After all, the best form of celebration is imitation. www.ImWithLincoln.com