We the People

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Politics and civil commentary with community columnist John Eyster.


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John Eyster
Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Today is also the day on which US President Barack Obama will deliver the first State of the Union address of his second term to the JOINT SESSION of our US Congress at the invitation of the Speaker of the House John Boehner. I think it is VERY SIGNIFICANT that President Obama whose 2nd INAUGURATION was held on Monday, January 21, 2013 - our Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday and NOW the 1st State of the Union Address of his 2nd term will be on the anniversary of ABRAHAM LINCOLN's birth. What do YOU think?

What would you identify as the major qualities of leadership which Abraham Lincoln brought to our US Presidency as he shepherded US (us – pronoun and US – United States) through the very, very severe crisis of CIVIL WAR (March 1861 inauguration – April 15, 1865 assassination)? IF Lincoln had lived, would his moderate plan for reconstruction of our US have been accepted by our US Congress and WE THE PEOPLE? In the midst of our present crisis, I believe LINCOLN has a great deal of guidance to offer us. What are YOUR thoughts? Please comment.

TODAY is the day on which the SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES JOHN BOEHNER (R-Ohio District #8) invited US PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA to deliver the first STATE OF THE UNION (SOTU) of his 2nd term. It is protocol that the SPEAKER invites the President to give the State of the Union. Remember, the US President is NOT a member of the US Congress. With our separation of powers, the President “visits” the Capitol upon invitation of members. And, the President invites members of Congress to “visit” The White House. Significant demonstration of our SEPARATION OF POWERS under our US Constitution.

I think it is meaningful and significant that the Speaker chose the anniversary of ABRAHAM LINCOLN’s birth for this annual event in our US government. The “State of the Union” is REQUIRED by the US Constitution, but the format has changed through our US history.

TODAY the SOTU has become a MAJOR TV EVENT with the US President addressing a JOINT SESSION of the US Congress with FULL TV COVERAGE so that WE THE PEOPLE of the US are able to see the event in REAL TIME.

The official GOP response to the President’s SOTU by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) will be broadcast immediately after the President’s SOTU. For persons interested in more communication via the Internet from the GOP, there will be a “Real-Time Fact Checks” – you can use this link to connect with these online resources, “Speaker of the House John Boehner.” This website has numerous resources for citizens to learn more about GOP policy stances, strategies and personnel.

The complementary website for the DEMS is “Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.”

Anticipating President Obama’s SOTU tonight, I have been reflecting on Abraham Lincoln’s deft leadership of our USA during a MAJOR NATIONAL CRISIS with INTENSE POLARIZATION. For me, it is amazing to review how Abraham Lincoln approached his inauguration as President of the US on March 4, 1861 (Remember this was before we moved the Presidential Inauguration date to January 20.) as civil war was festering with South Carolina already having seceded from the Union in December 1860, but an attempt at a negotiated peace and continuing appeal to COMPROMISE in his Inaugural Address on March 4, 1861.

He concluded that Inaugural Address, "We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

Some argue that TODAY “COMPROMISE” is not possible. President Obama has been attacked as being weak when he worked for COMPROMISE. I would assert that COMPROMISE is a necessity for a healthy republic = representative democracy. Would you agree?

As I analyze the current crisis for our republic, I think we again are challenged by the meaning of that “more perfect union” which the founders worked to create. In context with assertion of the power of “nullification” of federal laws by STATES, Lincoln asserted that states could NOT NULLIFY federal law OR secede from the “more perfect union.”

Lincoln asserted that the republic under the US Constitution of 1789 was different from the Articles of Confederation. Lincoln said that SECESSION – states’ rights – were NOT to be allowed to overcome the US CONSTITUTION with its provision of the “SUPREMACY CLAUSE”!

If you want to learn more about the “supremacy clause,” I suggest you use this link to read Wikipedia’s feature article, “Supremacy Clause.”

Our US Supreme Court has ruled that only the FEDERAL COURTS can declare a federal law UNCONSTITUTIONAL and states do NOT have authority to nullify a federal law. In spite of that US Supreme Court ruling, there are politicians who continue to declare that their states have the POWER to NULLIFY federal laws! What do YOU think?

I dare to HOPE to hear President Obama declare his COMMITMENT to the MORE PERFECT UNION of the USA under the US Constitution. He, like Lincoln, faces a MAJOR CRISIS. I do NOT think that we will face violent civil war in 2013, but I continue to be concerned about the more and more intense polarization which has led to VIOLENT WORDS and, in some cases, VIOLENT BEHAVIOR. Is there a threat of a domestic “Arab Spring” for the US? What is YOUR analysis?

If you want to read more about the “Arab Spring,” I suggest Wikipedia’s feature article, “Arab Spring.”

As we celebrate the 104th anniversary of the birth of ABRAHAM LINCOLN, WE THE PEOPLE of JANESVILLE, WI have significant historic ties with ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

Have YOU seen the memorial identifying the site on SOUTH MAIN STREET where Lincoln delivered one of the early speeches of his campaign for US President in 1859?

You will find pictures and Neil Johnson’s report published in the Janesville Gazette about the dedication of that memorial on Friday, October 7, 2011 using this link, “Lincoln's 'Janesville speech' memorialized.”

Johnson reports, “When Abraham Lincoln spoke in front of the former Young America Hall in downtown Janesville, he was just starting to feel his oats as a national politician and was campaigning for president.

“On Oct. 1, 1859, standing at what is now the southwest corner of the Johnson Bank parking lot at 1 S. Main St., Lincoln spoke to a crowd of 1,000 for an hour. His talking points: slavery, free labor and popular sovereignty.

“Young America Hall was demolished more than 40 years ago, but the place of Lincoln’s 1859 speech is now marked with a monument. It was unveiled Friday in a ceremony presented by local Lincoln historian Pete Skelly.

“The stone monument has a plaque showing a photo of Lincoln taken around the time of his Janesville speech along with a bronze image of Young America Hall and an inscription. It was donated by the Skelly family in honor of Skelly’s father, Vic Skelly, a former Janesville firefighter.

“Skelly said he hopes the new monument draws more attention to the city’s history. He said Janesville has other sites he believes should be marked, including a few Civil War camps and a World War II prisoner of war camp that was located on Crosby Avenue.

“’There’s little historical things like that that people don’t know that existed,’ Skelly said. ‘They deserve some interest and commemoration before we lose sight and lose touch with them.’”

There are the OTHER LINCOLN LOCATIONS in Janesville – the LINCOLN-TALLMAN HOUSE where Lincoln visited the weekend of October 1-2-3. His visit was extended when he missed the Sunday morning train.

Lincoln then attended the church service with the Tallman family at the First Congregational Church. That visit to the church on Sunday, October 2, 1859, was celebrated by the congregation – now First Congregational United Church of Christ – on Sunday, September 27, 2009 – the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s weekend visit in Janesville.

If you are interested in viewing the JATVMedia program of that special Service at First Congregational United Church of Christ, Janesville, use this link to the program, “The 150th Anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's Visit to Janesville, Wisconsin.”

If YOU are interested in a more general video featuring Lincoln and our area, Glen Loyd posted a video with his Gazette “community blog” in 2011. You can use this link to that video, “Lincoln and the Rock River.” Valuable video resource.

As I conclude this 4th WE THE PEOPLE blog post saluting the anniversary of the birth of ABRAHAM LINCOLN, I choose to use the same close as I have used in each of the previous 3 blog posts citing the 3 challenging resolutions called for by Lincoln as he completed his Gettysburg Address:

“’It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve –

(1) that these dead shall not have died in vain—

(2) that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and

(3) that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.’”

Here we go…

Mr. E.

Last updated: 9:24 am Monday, April 29, 2013

John W. Eyster lives in the Edgerton area. He is an adjunct professor assigned with the online/distance education faculty of Viterbo University, LaCrosse. He continues his personal mission supporting democracy/civics education in Wisconsin K-12 schools through Project Citizen, We the People, Discovering Democracy (Milton HS). John is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff or management.

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