President Biden

An Unlikely Lincoln

Each of our hosts watched the broadcast of President Biden’s speech in Philadelphia on 9/1/2022. Read the President’s full remarks per the White House website here. Read Gloria Feldt’s response below.

I listened to President Joe Biden’s speech while driving to a fundraiser for Arizona attorney general candidate Kris Mayes.

Gloria Feldt and Janet Napolitano take a selfie at a fundraiser for Kris Mayes on 9/1/22
Gloria Feldt and Janet Napolitano at an event for Kris Mayes the night of President Biden’s speech

Biden’s key message, that we are in a battle for the soul of a nation, put me in mind of Abraham Lincoln’s famous “House Divided” speech to the Illinois Republican state convention. 

Citing the Bible verse Matthew 12:22-28, which reads “a house divided against itself cannot stand,” Lincoln said:

I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.

President Biden explicitly called out the contrast between a country where we have the right to abortion, birth control, and marriage equality and a country where we do not. 

For once, it seems Democrats have the same message and are staying on it. Kris Mayes asserted, “American democracy runs through Arizona.” She went on to say, “As attorney general, I will never prosecute a woman, doctor, etc. for abortion because I have read the Arizona Constitution, which has an express right to privacy in personal matters.”

Mayes was a Republican when she worked for Governor Janet Napolitano almost two decades ago. Napolitano, who served as attorney general prior to becoming governor, spoke in support of Mayes. 

Talking media heads repeatedly observed that Biden’s speech was unusual because it wasn’t announcing a new initiative but rather framed a message speech. Mayes noted that nothing has been “usual” for the last six years. 

The time is right for a speech by the commander in chief setting out a moral as well as political framework. I think the nation is hungry for that. 

Like Lincoln throwing down the moral gauntlet about slavery, Biden’s message that our democracy is on the line in the midterm elections has defined precisely the choice we face. This might not be the role he expected to play when he ran for President, but he rose to the need of this moment.

Gloria Feldt is an acclaimed expert on women, power, and leadership with frontline leadership experience, a bestselling author, and in-demand keynote speaker. She is cofounder and president of Take The Lead, whose mission reflects her life’s passion: to prepare, develop, inspire, and propel women to take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025 by providing breakthrough training, mentoring and coaching role modeling, and thought leadership. 

Featured image source: White House

Gloria Feldt headshot

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