Radio Address on Lincoln's Birthday.
I DEEPLY REGRET that public duties make it impossible for me to be present with you at your Lincoln Day dinner this evening. It is, however, a privilege and obligation for every American to join even for a few moments in a tribute to Abraham Lincoln.
I gave a brief address from this room in the White House a year ago tonight. I stated then that it was the room in which a long line of presidents from Adams to Roosevelt have labored for the single purpose of their country's welfare. It was in this room from which I am speaking that Lincoln labored incessantly day and night for the preservation of the Union: No one can enter here without being sensitive to those invisible influences of the men who have gone before. It was from this window that for 5 years Lincoln looked across the Potomac upon a flag under which embattled forces threatened our national unity. Unafraid, he toiled here with patience, with understanding, with steadfastness, with genius and courage that those wounds of a distraught nation might be healed and that flag which waved over this house might be restored as the symbol of a united country. We rightly look back upon that time as the period of the greatest strain and stress which has threatened our country. But its wounds have long since healed, and its memories are of the glorious valor and courage of our race, both North and South. They bring into bold relief memories of a great son of America who freed the country from slavery, preserved the solidarity of the Union, revitalized the Nation, reinspired the people with a new purpose, and set for them a new destiny.
While we are in the midst of the difficulties of this day we may well entertain the feeling that history will record this period as one of the most difficult in its strains and stresses upon the timbers of the Republic that has been experienced since Lincoln's time. There are enduring principles and national ideals to be preserved against the pressures of today.
The forces with which we are contending are far less tangible than those of Lincoln's time. They are invisible forces, yet potent in their powers of destruction. We are engaged in a fight upon a hundred fronts just as positive, just as definite, and requiring just as greatly the moral courage, the organized action, the unity of strength, and the sense of devotion in every community as in war.
I am confident of the resources, the power, and the courage of our people to triumph over any national difficulty. They are rallying to their responsibilities. They are thus doing more than serving their immediate needs. They are buttressing the very foundations of self-government. They are defending the very principles of liberty and freedom. They are showing the patience and the steadfastness of Abraham Lincoln.
Ours is a government of political parties. Lincoln was the leader of a party whose traditions and tenets are precious to all those who adhere to it. But we do not celebrate the birth of Lincoln as a political event. Instead we celebrate his birthday as the most significant for any American after Washington. In its celebration, we find renewed courage and strength. Our obligation to Lincoln is to be resolute in our determination to maintain the principles which Washington forged from the fires of revolution and which Lincoln strengthened in the fires of civil strife.
Lincoln deservedly shares with Washington the distinction of a nationally commemorated anniversary. Today, as throughout recent decades, his vision sets the guideposts of American conscience and American ideals. This humble man of the wilderness, who labored over grub hoe and axe in his youth, never saw a city until he was 20 years old, never opened a grammar until after he had attained his majority. Yet he became one of the few masters of the English language. There are no nobler utterances, no greater inspirations to people than his many appealing statements culminating with his Gettysburg speech. A race is fortunate that can contribute a voice calling to order and to conscience in the world which shall be heard above the froth and immaterial substance of everyday life. It comes to few men to become that voice to their generation. Still fewer are they whose voices resound through the life of a people.
Abraham Lincoln more than any other man gave expression to the heart and the character and the faith of our race. Washington was indeed the father of our country. Lincoln was its greatest son.
Note: The President spoke at 10 p.m. from the Lincoln Study of the White House in connection with the annual Lincoln Day dinner of the National Republican Club of New York City. The National Broadcasting Company radio network carried the address.
A reading copy of this item with holograph changes by the President is available for examination at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library.
Herbert Hoover, Radio Address on Lincoln's Birthday. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/208054