Obama channels Lincoln—should you?

Speechwriters can always mine Abraham Lincoln’s speeches for compelling and memorable language.

Speechwriters can always mine Abraham Lincoln’s speeches for compelling and memorable language

“We are not enemies, but friends … though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.”

The words are Abraham Lincoln’s—from the closing lines of his first inaugural speech—but Barack Obama chose them for his election night speech to highlight the divisions in America. And even where Obama did not quote Lincoln directly, his speech in Grant Park had a Lincoln-esque vibe.

“Behind his speech were the ghosts of Lincoln’s first inaugural, which moved anxiously over ‘every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land,’ and his second, which promised to ‘bind up the nation’s wounds,’” writes James Wood in The New Yorker. “Obama quoted from the end of the first inaugural—‘We are not enemies, but friends’—and the implication was clear: that the past eight years have been a kind of civil war.”

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