Washington, D.C. - President Barack Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Republican Leader John Boehner, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, historians and Members of Congress joined together in the Rotunda of the Capitol this morning to hold a congressional tribute in celebration of the 200th anniversary of President Lincoln's birth. Below are the Speaker's remarks:
“In 1861, several months after winning his first presidential election, Abraham Lincoln traveled from Springfield, Illinois to Washington by train, stopping along the way in Philadelphia - the birthplace of our Constitution.
“While visiting Independence Hall, President-elect Lincoln was asked to speak extemporaneously. His remarks on that day can provide inspiration and guidance to Congress today.
‘I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments
embodied in the Declaration of Independence. I have often pondered over the
dangers which were incurred by the men who assembled here…
‘I have pondered over the toils that were endured by the officers and soldiers of
the army who achieved that Independence. “I have often inquired of myself,
what great principle or idea it was that kept this Confederacy so long together…
‘[It was] the Declaration of Independence which gave liberty, not alone to the
people of this country, but, I hope, to the world, for all future time.'”
“Ten days later, Abraham Lincoln became our 16th President. Over the next four years and one month, he faced some of the greatest trials in America's history. But always, he held strong to the faith embodied by our Founding Fathers. Abraham Lincoln knew that the preservation of the union was a fight for the ideals of the Declaration of Independence.
“At stake was not just the future of our nation, but the future of free people throughout the world.
“And so, in his annual message to Congress, in 1863, he wrote, ‘The struggle of to-day is not altogether for to-day; it is for a vast future also. With a reliance on Providence all the more firm and earnest, let us proceed in the great task which events have devolved upon us.'
“Colleagues and friends: as we honor the bicentennial of the birth of the great Abraham Lincoln, let us proceed in the great task which events have devolved upon us.”