WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In a handwritten tribute to the words of a president he has long admired, President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that the Gettysburg Address has provided him late-night solace when he considers the long struggle for equality in America.
“At times, social and economic change have strained our union,” Obama wrote in his tribute, posted late on Tuesday on the White House website after Obama took some criticism for not participating in a ceremony marking the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s famous speech.
“But Lincoln’s words give us confidence that whatever trials await us, this nation and the freedoms we cherish can, and shall, prevail,” Obama wrote.
Lincoln delivered his speech in 1863 only months after the Battle of Gettysburg, considered a turning point in the U.S. Civil War.
Obama said he sometimes visits a room in the White House that Lincoln used as his office after his family has gone to bed to look at an original copy of the address in Lincoln’s hand.
“I linger on these few words that have helped define our American experiment: ‘a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,’” Obama said.
“Through the lines of weariness etched in his face, we know Lincoln grasped, perhaps more than anyone, the burdens required to give these words meaning,” Obama wrote.
Obama, who like Lincoln calls Illinois home, has held up his famed predecessor as an idol on numerous occasions, and took his presidential oath of office using Lincoln’s bible.
He was invited to speak at a ceremony in Gettyburg, Pennsylvania, and was criticized in some local newspapers for not attending.
“It didn’t work, schedule-wise,” his senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said on Twitter.
Obama on Tuesday spoke to a Washington forum with chief executives organized by the Wall Street Journal and also met with U.S. senators to discuss negotiations with Iran about its nuclear program.
Obama contributed his handwritten essay - about the same length as Lincoln’s short address - to the Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation’s project called “272 Words,” where people contribute thoughts in the spirit of Lincoln.
The project involves ordinary Americans as well as former Presidents Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, General Colin Powell, and Martin Luther King III, the White House said.
Additional reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Doina Chiacu