Don Woodard: Two Prairie State presidents persevered and prevailed

When the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C. in 1922, President Warren G. Harding delivered the address and Edwin Markham read his immortal poem, Lincoln, the Man of the People.

As I watched President Barack Obama sign the Health Care Reform Bill into law five years ago, I thought about Markham’s poem. Lincoln and Obama – both from Illinois. Lincoln: Slavery and Secession. Obama: Health Care and Recession.

Up from log cabin to the Capitol,

One fire was on his spirit, one resolve –

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To send the keen ax to the root of wrong,

Clearing a free way for the feet of God,

The eyes of conscience testing every stroke.

The grip that swung the ax in Illinois

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Was on the pen that set a people free

“The grip that was on the ax in Illinois was on the pen that set a people free.” But not free yet! For Lincoln, a bloody, four-year Civil War lay ahead to victory and his supreme sacrifice. For Obama, five long years of trial by legislatures, Congress and courts until the Hallelujah! 6 to 3 stamp of approval Thursday, June 25, 2015, by the Supreme Court of the United States. The Long Ordeal is Over!

Having been raised in Dr. J. Frank Norris’s First Baptist Church back in the 1930s, I had since boyhood believed that Amazing Grace was the Baptist National Hymn. How precious then to hear it boldly sung last month in Charleston’s historic Mother Emanuel AME Church by the President of the United States! The President sang the first verse. I think the third verse of the grand old hymn especially speaks to the five long years of trials and tribulations of Obamacare.

Through many dangers, toils and snares,

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I have already come;

‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,

And grace will lead me home.

Eighty years ago, over fierce opposition, Franklin D. Roosevelt gave the Greatest Generation our highly prized Social Security. Today Barack Obama, over even fiercer opposition, has given this generation a companion piece, the Affordable Care Act. His fledgling Obamacare had so many enemies, among them 15 Republican presidential aspirants who know not why they are so, but, like to Shakespeare’s village curs, bark when their fellows do.

Will our grandchildren 80 years from now in the year 2095 prize Obamacare as we treasure Rooseveltcare? Will they be singing Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound!? Stay tuned.

Don Woodard is a Fort Worth businessman and author of Black Diamonds! Black Gold!: The Saga of Texas Pacific Coal and Oil Company.