Dear President Obama: My family and I were disappointed to learn you've decided not to attend the 150th anniversary commemoration of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in Pennsylvania this November 19.
Americans are a rarity in the world in that they identify themselves not by human categorization but by an idea forged 237 years ago in the Declaration of Independence. A state of mind as much as a state of being is what enables the United States to be the premier nation of nations.
I am an American and the descendant of slaves. One of them was the first African-American invited as a guest into the White House. His name was Frederick Douglass. I am also a descendant of a man who led the South's Confederate troops during the Civil War. His name was General Robert E. Lee.
Ms. Davis, her Democratic colleagues, and those "average citizens" who stood with them acted as patriots. So, too, we should add, are the Republicans who in support of their own beliefs and principles opposed them.
Because it was an American battle fought within an American war, most people believe the outcome was of little interest beyond our borders. In truth, however, Gettysburg had tremendous international impact then, and it continues to do so today.
What I will be remembering -- and which I sincerely urge that today's politicians and media personalities read up on -- is the fact that the Civil War was actually postponed for decades by the most fierce ideological divide in our history.
We live in critical times. So has every other generation of American citizens. We cannot realize the promise of our American Revolution by restoring the past. We cannot become the "summer soldier and sunshine patriot" of Thomas Paine's The American Crisis.
When the Civil War made its way to Pennsylvania, Gettysburg College stood in its midst. Forty eight of the 116 students enrolled in the College at that time abandoned their studies and joined Company A, 26th Pennsylvania Emergency Militia Regiment.
Anniversaries show us the eventual futility and limits of human remembrance -- especially when it comes to tragic political events like wars and battles. 2013 marks a striking confluence of martial anniversaries.
Obama did, however, ground his inclusive conception of our national identity and, yes, his progressive political philosophy securely in our American traditions and history going back two centuries. Mr. Hazelwood takes umbrage? Fine.
I do think Obama was responding to Reagan's vision, but not to tell Reagan that he was wrong, but to tell some of his Republican disciples of today who use Reagan's words and legacy that this version of America has become outdated.
After years of speaking to groups of all sizes, I still do not think I have it down completely. I had to really think hard, therefore, when a friend asked me recently how I gave such good talks and if I would mind sharing my "secrets."
What we have now is not what they envisioned, nor the "government of the people, by the people, and for the people" that President Lincoln called for in the Gettysburg Address. With the stakes as high as they are, you would think that some common sense would prevail in Washington.