Obama calls for renewal as inaugural festivities begin

McClatchy NewspapersJanuary 17, 2009 

PHILADELPHIA _President-elect Barack Obama called for "a new declaration of independence" before pulling out of the 30th Street Station here on Saturday morning, embarking on a mini-version of the train trip to the nation's capital that his political hero Abraham Lincoln made before his own inauguration 148 years ago.

In a speech to about 300 people inside the station's tightly secured North Waiting Room_ a crowd that included the mayor, Pennsylvania's governor, Democratic and Republican senators and invited guests _Obama spoke of Philadelphia as the birthplace of America's democracy. He said that "the same perseverance and idealism that our founders displayed" in 1776 is needed today.

"What is required is a new declaration of independence, not just in our nation but in our own lives, from ideology and small thinking, prejudice and bigotry," Obama said. Alluding to Lincoln's first inaugural address, he called for "an appeal not to our easy instincts but to our better angels."

Obama is to ride in a restored bright blue Pullman car of an Amtrak train along with his wife, Michelle, who turned 45 on Saturday, their daughters Malia and Sasha, and 41 Americans from 15 states selected to join them for the trip. Vice President-elect Joe Biden and his wife were to board in their home state, Delaware.

Obama's planned one-day route, from Philly to Wilmington, Del., to Baltimore and finally Washington, is far shorter than the one that took Lincoln a dozen days to traverse in February 1861, from Springfield, Ill., to the nation's capital. Lincoln's trip was plagued by assassination threats, which required him to reroute his trip at one point and sneak through Baltimore unannounced and incognito.

Security on Obama's trip was extremely tight, but his events were marked by a sense of ease and congeniality. Obama will be taking office with a mandate for change, unlike Lincoln, and without the level of division that preceded the Civil War.

The last president to arrange a train trip into Washington prior to inauguration was Dwight D. Eisenhower. But Lincoln's trip was the inspiration for Obama, who launched his presidential bid in Springfield, Ill., has used Lincoln's words in his speeches and style of governance, and plans to take the oath of office on Lincoln's Bible.

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