Simon Review Paper #13


On November 4, 2008 the junior Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, was elected the 44th President of the United States. Obama was the first president to be elected from Illinois since the Civil War era. Of course, Abraham Lincoln was the first and the most famous, and the 16th president was also the first Republican ever to be elected president since the party was only born in 1854. Given Lincoln’s stature and reputation as one of the greatest, and perhaps the greatest president in American history, it is not surprising that Obama took every opportunity available during his campaign to link himself with Lincoln. This linkage even continued after the election when in preparation for his inauguration in January of 2009 the president‐elect announced that he would use the same Bible for the swearing in ceremony that Lincoln used in 1861, an act which was laden with much symbolism. Ulysses S. Grant was considered to be elected from a political base in Illinois where he had lived for part of his adult life although like all professional military men he had moved around a lot. Ronald Reagan was from Dixon and spent his early years in Illinois; however, he moved to Iowa as soon as he graduated from college, and he won his fame as a movie actor in Hollywood and then as Governor of California. So, while Obama, like Lincoln, was born and raised in another state, his political base and adult life were formed and tempered in the crucible of Illinois politics. Clearly Chicago is Obama’s political home, and Springfield is where Obama, like Lincoln before him, learned to ply the legislative craft. So, it was not inappropriate at all for Senator Obama to announce the kick off of his presidential run on a frigid day in February of 2007 by invoking Lincoln and while standing on the steps of the Old State Capitol building in downtown Springfield.