Dr. Richard Land: Presidents’ Day Reminds Americans of Our Priceless National Heritage
Southern Evangelical Seminary President: Elected Officials and Voters Alike Must Remember That Our Government Is ‘Of the People, by the People and for the People’
February 18, 2020
CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Today, Americans celebrate Presidents’ Day honoring the birthdays of the country’s two greatest presidents: George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. And while they came from starkly different backgrounds and life experiences, says Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES, www.ses.edu) President and Evangelical leader Dr. Richard Land, they literally shaped America into the nation it ultimately has become.
“No other presidents have been as formative and inspiring in molding both the American national character and its form of government, not to mention the presidential office itself,” Land said. “George Washington was indeed the father of the country. He guided the newborn nation successfully through its formative crisis, the Revolution. Overwhelmingly popular as a national hero, having led the Continental Army to victory over the modern world’s first superpower, Great Britain, Washington rejected offers to become a monarch, and refused to shackle the newly created American presidency with the prerogatives of European monarchy. Almost all Americans would agree. He helped us forge a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
Lincoln, he added, became president in the midst of the nation’s second great crisis—the split over slavery that descended into a horribly bloody civil war, American against American, for four terrible and destructive years.
“The entirety of Lincoln’s presidency was filled with preparation for war, war itself, and its bitter aftermath, made yet more bitter by perhaps the worse individual calamity to ever befall the American people—Lincoln’s assassination,” Land said. “In the midst of the terrible bloodletting that was America’s Civil War, Lincoln struggled for answers to provide greater meaning and purpose that would justify the agonizing suffering, tormenting the nation, North and South. Elton Trueblood meaningfully described Lincoln as the ‘theologian of American anguish.’”
Lincoln had been a spiritual skeptic in his youth, Land noted, but increasingly became a man of deep faith as he walked through the fiery crucible of the Civil War where Americans were killing their fellow Americans in horrifyingly heartbreaking numbers. Lincoln declared, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for the day.”
“In November 1863, President Lincoln journeyed to Gettysburg, the site of the bloodiest battle ever fought on American soil,” Land said. “The land was still scared and littered with the aftermath of the great three-day battle that had been fought there three and a half months earlier. Lincoln had gone to dedicate a cemetery for the tens of thousands of Union soldiers who had been killed. His speech became an almost instant classic, as Lincoln managed to distill into simple, but eloquent language the ultimate meaning of the struggle and the unique nature of the American experiment in self-government.”
Lincoln’s simple but timeless words grabbed hearts and minds as they were spoken: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure.”
During this address, Lincoln also distilled the essence of the America experiment, as he declared “that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom—and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
“Now we know from an eyewitness what the emphasis was in the last lines of that speech,” Land said. “Most people today say ‘of the people, by the people, for the people,’ but Lincoln, when he delivered the speech, said ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people,’ with the emphasis on the American people.
“For President Lincoln, and Washington before him, the people were sovereign, and the government gained its authority from the consent of the governed, not top-down government,” Land continued. “It is important for Americans to remember this priceless national heritage, as evidence abounds that America faces a crisis of confidence in our governing institutions and in our future itself. It is time for Americans to look to their historical heritage as embodied in Presidents Washington and Lincoln and remember that we are the ones who confer power on the government by our consent, and the government is there to serve us.
“This November, we will elect—or re-elect—our nation’s president, along with senators, representatives and governors,” he concluded. “We have the opportunity once again to remind our elected officials and those who would be our elected officials that they derive their authority from the people, and that they can be replaced when they forget for whom they work. After all, is a government of the people, by the people, for the people that shall not perish from the earth.”
At SES, students discuss the consequences of elections and the impact of Christians engaging in government through its relatively new “Philosophy, Politics and Economics” program. Offered primarily at just a few top-tier universities around the world, the PPE program introduces students to a Christian perspective of how philosophy, politics and economics intersect, focusing on the works of Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, Henry Hazlitt, Karl Marx, Thomas Aquinas, Robert Sirico, Jay Richards and others.
To interview Dr. Richard Land or another representative of Southern Evangelical Seminary, contact Media@HamiltonStrategies.com, Jeff Tolson, 610.584.1096, ext. 108, or Deborah Hamilton, ext. 102.