104 STAT. 5212 PROCLAMATION 6093—FEB. 12, 1990 to a second term in office, Lincoln reflected aloud: "We cannot have free government without elections; and if the rebellion could force us to forego or postpone a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us." The success of the electoral process reaffirmed Lincoln's conviction that the principles upon which our Nation was founded must—and could—withstand the fiery ordeal it now suffered. Lincoln's leadership throughout the Civil War was inspired by a firm belief in those principles. Abraham Lincoln's aversion to the institution of slavery was known long before he took office. Perhaps it was his experience as a young man, clearing land on the frontier and working odd jobs while he studied law, that enabled him to see the injustice of earning one's bread as the fruit of another man's labor. Ultimately, however, Lincoln saw slavery as dehumanizing, a cruel contrast to the ideals expressed in our Nation's Declaration of Independence. In 1858, campaigning for the Senate, he reminded an audience at Edwardsville, Illinois, that our Nation's strength and purpose are found in the spirit that prizes liberty as the heritage of all men. "Destroy this spirit," the young statesman warned, "and you have planted the seeds of despotism at your own doors.... Accustomed to trample on the rights of others, you have lost the genius of your own independence and become the fit subjects of the first cunning tyrant who rises among you." Lincoln realized that slavery violently contradicted the shining promise of America. His issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation became a decisive factor in the Civil War—and one of the historic and crowning achievements of Lincoln's life. Leading our country through the perilous years of civil war, Abraham Lincoln ensured its safe passage by remaining faithful to the principles upon which it was founded. Today, as we mark the anniversary of his birth, we are grateful for his courage and wisdom, and for his example. With an unfailing commitment to justice and an equally profound sense of mercy and compassion, Lincoln exhorted his fellow Americans to act "with malice toward none, with charity for all." He cared for the Union and for the individual Americans of all races, all conditions, and all regions. In his eyes, the great experiment in self-government launched by our Nation's Founders represented "the last, best hope of Earth." Today, recalling the timeless spirit of his historic Gettysburg Address, let us rededicate ourselves to "the unfinished work" Abraham Lincoln so nobly advanced. As individuals and as a Nation, let us strive to be governed "by the better angels of our nature," always choosing the sure and righteous course marked for us by the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. This is the cause for which Lincoln gave his life, and it is the cause that we, too, must represent in the world and carry on for the sake of generations yet unborn. NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby urge all Americans to observe February 12, 1990—the 181st anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln—with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities designed to honor his memory and to reaffirm our commitment to the ideals he so faithfully defended.