Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Land of Obama?

By Shawn Healy
The parallels between Barack Obama and Abraham Lincoln are striking, and the President-elect is well aware of the similarities. Indeed, he has gone to great lengths to embrace them, beginning with launching his presidential campaign from the Old Statehouse steps in Springfield, and returning there once more to name Senator Joe Biden as his running mate. More recently, he is allegedly pondering Lincoln's "team of rivals" concept in forming his Cabinet, vetting fierce primary opponent Senator Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State while reading Doris Kearns Goodwin's book by the same name.

The burden of expectations is indeed high, but at least the Union is not on the brink of collapse. Obama inherits a staggering economy and a fragile national security environment with our troops taxed in separate overseas conflicts. Add environmental and health care concerns to the mix, and the duties that our 44th president must perform rival that of at least Reagan, if not Franklin Roosevelt.

Will this previously little-known lawyer from Illinois with a knack for stirring speeches and eloquence stand as the second coming of the giant whom the Prairie State and the nation is about to fondly reminisce on the 200th anniversary of his birth? 2009 promises to be a year of honoring the past and at the same time embracing the present, for America will have its first African-American president, a path paved by our 16th president's Emancipation Proclamation and belief in a "new birth of freedom" through the brutal Civil War.

The Land of Lincoln is now the home to another president who will make history. Come January 20th, the shackles of the past give way to the urgency of the present. Judgment will follow, assuredly both positive and negative, as Obama joins a lineage who called the Prairie State home. The bar has been placed exceedingly high, and it is up to our president-elect to aspire to share space in the lofty echelons occupied by the Great Emancipator.


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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

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