In 2013, then President Obama wrote a beautiful essay about Lincoln, the White House, and the Gettysburg Address. Reading Obama’s words today reminds everyone that the same piece of living history that previous presidents were in awe of is the same place that classless Trump called a dump.
When talking to members at his Bedminster golf club, Trump explained that he golfs every weekend because the White House is a dump.
In the evening, when Michelle and the girls have gone to bed, I sometimes walk down the hall to a room Abraham Lincoln used as his office. It contains an original copy of the Gettysburg address, written in Lincoln’s own 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.”
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. He knew that even a self-evident truth was not self-executing; that blood drawn by the lash was an affront to our ideals; that blood drawn by the sword was in painful service to those same ideals.
He understood as well that our humble efforts, our individual ambitions, are ultimately not what matter; rather, it is through the accumulated toil and sacrifice of ordinary men and women – those like the soldiers who consecrated that battlefield – that this country is built, and freedom preserved. This quintessentially self-made man, fierce in his belief in honest work and the striving spirit at the heart of America, believed that it falls to each generation, collectively, to share in that toil and sacrifice.
Through cold war and world war, through industrial revolutions and technological transformations, through movements for civil rights and women’s rights and workers’ rights and gay rights, we have. At times, social and economic change have strained our union. But Lincoln’s words give us confidence that whatever trials await us, this nation and the freedom we cherish can, and shall, prevail.
Living in the White House is an honor and a responsibility. Trump has already neglected the responsibilities of his office, but he is a man who is so shallow and entitled that he can’t see and appreciate the history of the place that he is occupying.
Donald Trump wants so badly to be Barack Obama, but he will never measure up to his predecessor. Obama and others before him conducted themselves as a president should, and Trump will always be the reality television star who was sent into the West Wing from Russia with love.