One hundred fifty years ago at this moment, Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth President of these United States, drew his last breath.
As the Commander-in-Chief under Article II, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution, Mr. Lincoln's death at the hands of a Confederate sympathizer -- though not a uniformed individual, nonetheless acting on behalf of the Southern Confederacy -- constituted both a civilian and a military casualty. His sacrifice served to elevate him, as did sacrifices by everyday soldiers, nearly fifteen thousand from Michigan, into the ranks of the honored dead from whom we should find our model of service to the Nation and support for its mission to extend God-given and self-evident rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The death of President Lincoln was felt keenly in Michigan. Its soldiers felt it perhaps even more. The historian of the 24th Michigan, O.B. Curtis, recorded: "the nation was plunged into the deepest grief and the world startled by the crime of ages--the wicked assassination of Abraham Lincoln, at once the most abused and best loved President the nation ever had." There is no reconciliationist sentiment here, no Lost Cause sympathy: "Confessedly he was the man for the hour and occasion--God's instrument for the annihilation of the cause of the war, African Slavery." The regiment was granted its finest honor: "The solemn duty of performing the martial rites at his funeral devolved upon the Twenty-fourth Michigan Infantry which formed his funeral escort."
At The Henry Ford in Dearborn at this moment, chapel bells are ringing out, commemorating the loss of our greatest chieftain, and proclaiming the freedom and liberty in America that he helped extend.
Our history is what sets us apart. Our collective memory is what gives us identity. Our common heritage, despite its low moments and its too-frequent disgraces, is what we should continue to celebrate. Abraham Lincoln is ours, as Americans, and we ought never to forget his service and his sacrifice.
May we take increased devotion to that cause for which he gave the last full measure of devotion -- that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall never perish from the earth.