We need to rise above political division
President Obama's second inaugural address was more a statement of political philosophy than a specific agenda. Yet the president's assertion that "we must act" rings true amid a long, frustrating season of paralysis in the Capitol.
Mr. Obama will unveil a more definitive agenda in his State of the Union Address, deliberately scheduled this year to coincide with Abraham Lincoln's birthday, Feb. 12.
Despite the paralysis rooted in deep political division, and despite the nonsensical secession petitions that circulated in the wake of the president's re-election, there is no crisis akin to what Lincoln faced in the Civil War.
Yet it often is forgotten what Lincoln, Congress and the federal government accomplished despite the war: chartering the first transcontinental railroad; laying the foundation for land-grant colleges now including Cornell, MIT, Penn State, Michigan State and the University of Wisconsin; the Homestead Act to settle the West after the war. That was besides the transformation of the nation produced by the war itself.
The federal government today faces major global domestic and international challenges, yet somehow seems unable to walk and chew gum simultaneously.
Mr. Obama's speech called for an end to the paralysis, for action on civil rights, life-threatening climate change and other major issues.
Lincoln knew better than any president the need to assume risk for positive change. Mr. Obama's call is in that tradition. There always has been political division. The question is whether partisans can rise above it to sustain the nation's vitality and greatness.