“most Americans Don’t Know What Lincoln Really Represents”


What is his principal contribution from my own perception? His success at a critical point in keeping the country together. Sure, it would have been nice if he could have done it without a civil war. But that wasn’t possible. Whatever was in his heart, whatever was in his mind, however manipulative God knows he truly was, he pronounced a magnificent statement—about humanity, about rights, about the fundamental dignity of human beings.

The one thing we need most is clear statements of values. That’s what Roosevelt gave us. He was a master politician, but to me what Roosevelt was, was a commitment to a lot of people in trouble. It’s not all the alphabet agencies and all the clever devices. In his time they worked. They might never work again.

So the moral statement made by Lincoln, the moral statement made by Roosevelt, to me those are the important things. When was the last time a great moral statement was made? Who has done it recently? Martin Luther King? A great moral statement—that, more than anything else, is what we need now.