- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 19, 2005

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — President Bush yesterday dedicated the new Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, drawing parallels between the leader who upheld the Declaration of Independence’s pledge that “all men are created equal” and his own attempt to spread freedom and democracy.

“Do the promises of the Declaration apply beyond the culture that produced it?” the president asked hundreds of people gathered outside the $145 million presidential complex, exactly 140 years after Lincoln’s death.

“Are some, because of birth or background, destined to live in tyranny — or do all, regardless of birth or background, deserve to live in freedom” Americans have no right or calling to impose our own form of government on others, yet American interests and values are both served by standing for liberty in every part of the world,” Mr. Bush said.

The president praised Lincoln as a man who rose to the challenge of his time, and through “logic and clarity” helped hold together the United States, hewn by rancor over slavery and split by civil war.

Mr. Bush cited a number of nations — Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Georgia, Iraq, Lebanon among them — that now have “the same hopes, the same rights and the same future of self-government.”

Most of the president’s speech, however, was devoted to the Illinois country lawyer, born in the final year of Thomas Jefferson’s presidency, who taught himself law and became what many Americans consider the greatest president in U.S. history.

“Every generation has looked up to him as the Great Emancipator, the hero of unity and the martyr of freedom. Children have learned to follow his model of integrity and principle. Leaders have read and quoted his words, and have hoped to find a measure of his wisdom and strength. In all this, Lincoln has taken on the elements of myth.

“And in this case, the myth is true,” Mr. Bush said.

Yesterday’s dedication ceremony capped a four-day extravaganza to celebrate the new museum. More than a dozen Lincoln impersonators in black suits and top hats strolled about a large plaza, and a band played “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

There are 12 life-size theatrical sets, some with haunting soundtracks, that follow Lincoln’s life from the small, country cabin of his youth to the power — and the heartbreak — of fatherhood and the presidency.

But some critics have derided the new museum, featuring special effects by the wizards behind “Jurassic Park” and “Terminator 3,” as flash over substance and have complained about historical inaccuracies.

The museum’s director, Richard Norton Smith, said the exhibits, such as a four-minute animated graphic that shows the Civil War’s shifting front line, complete with a running tally of the dead, will captivate audiences of all ages.

“Kids will learn, but adults will learn, too,” Mr. Smith said. “It’s astonishing how much parents will learn, which might be sobering in its own right.”

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