Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
–Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address, 150 years ago today
When he became president on March 4, 1861, Lincoln was still hoping to avert a terrible civil war– which of course proved impossible. And once that war began, he rightly saw it through to the end with an awe-inspiring determination.
But what strikes me now is the poetry of those words: “mystic chords of memory” and “better angels of our nature.” Can you imagine any politician using language like that today?