“A New Birth of Freedom”: Senator Feinstein Announces 2009 Inaugural Theme

Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln

If the presidential campaign and election of President-elect Barack Obama revered a patron saint, Abraham Lincoln would be the man.

The great American poet and Lincoln biographer, Carl Sandburg, tells a story about Lincoln and gingerbread in his Prairie Years II, a story that Abe told in his fourth debate with Stephen A. Douglas – it may be an apocryphal story, as the only line in the transcripts of the debates seems to be the last one:

“When we lived in Indiana,” he said, “once in a while my mother used to get some sorghum and ginger and make some gingerbread. It wasn’t often and it was our biggest treat.

Gaetan Lee)
Gingerbread men (Photo credit: Gaetan Lee)

One day I smelled the gingerbread and came into the house to get my share while it was still hot. My mother had baked me three gingerbread men. I took them out under a hickory tree to eat them.

There was a family near us poorer than we were and their boy came along as I sat down.

‘Abe, he said, “gimme a man.’ I gave him one. He crammed it into his mouth in two bites and looked at me while I was biting the legs off my first one. ‘Abe, gimme that other’n.’ I wanted it myself, but I gave it him and as it followed the first, I said to him,

‘You seem to like gingerbread.’

‘Abe,’ he said, ‘I don’t s’pose anybody on earth likes gingerbread better’n I do — and gets less’n I do.’ “

The following press release gives no real details — for those we must wait — but the likelihood of many of Lincoln’s favorite foods and decorations reminiscent of Lincoln’s two inaugurals may appear. Gingerbread, for example.

SAN FRANCISCO – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC), today [November 5, 2009] announced the theme for the 2009 presidential inaugural.

Lincoln at Gettysburg
Lincoln at Gettysburg

“A New Birth of Freedom,” commemorates the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. The words come from the Gettysburg address, and express Lincoln’s hope that the sacrifice of those who died to preserve the nation shall lead to “a new birth of freedom” for our nation.

The inaugural theme, which was selected by Senator Feinstein and the members of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, will be woven through the inaugural ceremonies. The theme is traditionally linked to a major anniversary, and in her announcement Feinstein spoke of the appropriateness of the chosen theme to our present day circumstances, particularly in light of the historic election of Senator Barack Obama.

In addition to Senator Feinstein, the members of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies include: Senator Bob Bennett, Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid; Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi; House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer; and House Republican Leader John Boehner.

“At a time when our country faces major challenges at home and abroad, it is appropriate to revisit the words of President Lincoln, who strived to bring the nation together by appealing to ‘the better angels of our nature’,” Feinstein said. “It is especially fitting to celebrate the words of Lincoln as we prepare to inaugurate the first African-American president of the United States.”

“On January 20, as President-elect Obama takes the oath of office, he will look across the National Mall toward the Lincoln Memorial, where many of the sixteenth president’s immortal words are inscribed. Although some inaugural traditions have changed since Lincoln’s time, the swearing-in ceremony continues to symbolize the ideals of renewal, continuity, and unity that he so often expressed.”

For more on ginger and gingerbread, including a recipe for “Gingerbread Men,” go to my previous post, “Go Gingerly with Ginger.” For more on Lincoln’s inaugural menus, see my post on Lincoln.

Derrick Oliver)
Lincoln memorial (Photo credit: Derrick Oliver)
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