Obama pays public tribute to Lincoln's unifying legacy

Barack Obama paid a visit to the Lincoln Memorial at the weekend, publicly honouring the man who inspired his career and whose legacy is to provide a major theme for the inauguration in eight days.

The President-elect took his family to the monument on Saturday night, where they admired the statue of the 16th President, before studying the inscriptions of his greatest speeches, including the Gettysburg Address.

It was the latest indication that Mr Obama intends to begin his presidency citing his hero, an opponent of slavery who led the abolitionist North during the Civil War of 1861-65.

He has decided to be sworn into office using Abraham Lincoln's bible, and will spend three days this week travelling by train from Philadelphia to Washington, following the final leg of an identical journey taken by Lincoln.

The theme of Mr Obama's inauguration week, "A New Birth of Freedom", was inspired by Lincoln's speeches, while the menu for the lunch following his swearing-in is a replica of the one enjoyed by his predecessor.

According to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inauguration Ceremonies, which has published recipes on its internet site, 200 guests will be served on plates identical to the fine bone china ordered for the White House by Lincoln's wife, Mary.

The appetiser will be seafood stew, while the main course is to be "a brace of American birds". This will have duck breast with sour-cherry chutney and herb-roasted pheasant, all served with molasses, sweet potatoes and winter vegetables. Lincoln, who grew up on the frontier in Kentucky and Indiana, was a fan of root vegetables and game. The "apple cinnamon sponge cake" being prepared for dessert is said to provide a nod to Mr Lincoln's love of both apples and cake.

Mr Obama and Abraham Lincoln have plenty in common. Both overcame poor backgrounds to become successful lawyers in Illinois. They share a skill for inspirational speechmaking, and both took office at a time of political turbulence.

Although opponents detect a whiff of the PR stunt in the President-elect's efforts to ally himself with such a pivotal figure, Mr Obama's affection for Lincoln appears to go back a long way. It is mentioned throughout Mr Obama's book The Audacity of Hope, and was also cited when he announced his decision to run for the presidency in Springfield, Illinois, on the steps of the Old Capitol, where Lincoln was a legislator.

* Get a copy of menu and recipes at http://inaugural.senate.gov/luncheon/

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