A New Commitment To National Values

Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast
City of Pasadena
May 1, 2003
Mayor Bill Bogaard

I want to begin by expressing congratulations and gratitude to all those who have worked hard to organize this annual event, and all who are participating in it. Among the many traditions and events that make up this great community, this annual Prayer Breakfast is one of the most important.

You who have gathered today are a wonderful representation of our community: from churches, businesses, non-profit organizations and service agencies, governmental bodies, and dedicated individuals from every corner of Pasadena. I am especially proud of the many persons from Pasadena City Hall who are present, including my colleagues, Councilmembers Joyce Streator and Steve Haderlein, and City Manager Cynthia Kurtz.

Following the tragic events of September 11, it was stated time and again, “The world has changed forever”. As we know from our experience since then—in regard to homeland security, foreign policy, and the defense of civil liberties—the world has changed. A simple flight to San Francisco or Seattle is vastly different today than ever before. The challenge that each of us faces is to assure that these changes do not undermine the traditional values upon which our great nation was founded.

My thoughts in these remarks are inspired by a new book by Ronald C. White, Dean of the San Francisco Theological Seminary. It is called Lincoln’s Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural Address.

As President Lincoln took office for his second term, in the waning days of the Civil War, he began his speech as follows:

Fellow Countrymen: At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement, somewhat in detail, of a course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention, and engrosses the energies [sic] of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all.

These elegant words rang in my mind as I read about an event that took place a few weeks ago in Richmond, Virginia—the capital of the Confederate south during the Civil War nearly 150 years ago. On April 5, a statue of Abraham Lincoln was unveiled on the grounds of the Civil War Visitors Center. Behind it, carved in granite, are the words: “To bind up the nation’s wounds”.

This date of April 5 was the 138th anniversary of Lincoln’s tour of Richmond in 1865, two days after the city fell to federal troops, four days ahead of the Confederate surrender at Appomattox, and nine days before America’s 16th President was assassinated. During his visit to Richmond, Lincoln—accompanied by his 12 year old son, Tad—was greeted as a messiah by crowds of newly liberated slaves.

But today, not everybody in Richmond regards him as a hero. The unveiling of the statue last month was met by a protest involving about 100 members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. This organization’s Commander Bragdon Bowling said, “As a southerner, I’m offended. They have no concept of history and how it might be the wrong place to put the statue.” Earlier, he said that the Lincoln statue is an “unnecessary slight to our state with a not so subtle reminder of who won the war and who will dictate our history, heroes, education, and culture”.

Clearly, there is no room to rest on our laurels when it comes to the pursuit and the protection of our founding values.

But I am pleased to say that many persons did recognize the unveiling of this statue as a symbol of reconciliation and unity. Robert Kline of the Richmond Historical Society said, “I’m delighted that it’s finally happening, that Lincoln is in Richmond again. He came on a mission of peace and reconciliation, and I think the statue will serve that purpose for a very long time.”

So as we gather at this important event to share a common spiritual commitment, let us rededicate ourselves to our fundamental national values.

It is no exaggeration to say that the very shape of our future has changed—in some ways that we can already see, and in some that are not yet clear. But some things remain intact, and maybe even stronger than before: a commitment to equality and equal justice, to tolerance for all, to dignity and respect, to bravery, compassion and generosity when our fellow citizens are in need, to a sense of common purpose that unites us all.

So much has changed since the morning of September 11—but the one thing, above all, remains true and constant: the American spirit endures.

I believe that our recognition of the greatness and grandeur of Abraham Lincoln is a source of inspiration to our national values. Is that not our feeling as we hear the final words of his second inaugural address:

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.” 

Posted: 5/1/2003 08:25:00 AM
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