Government OF the People, BY the People, FOR the People

In Healing the Soul of America, Marianne Williamson quotes Lincoln’s famous words: “this nation … shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”   She goes on to say “What a radical concept that is—a government of the people, by the people, for the people.  It means, of course, that not only will the government consist of our citizens, elected by our citizens, but that its mission shall be to serve our citizens.
“We should take a good look at that sentence  ….  If ours were a government for the people, wouldn’t our children receive the best education in the world?  If ours were a government for the people, wouldn’t we have universal health insurance?  If ours were a government for the people, wouldn’t we have massively committed to “clean” energy sources by now?”  pp82-83

“The great issue of our times is not taxes, a balanced budget, social security or medicare.  Those are all rather elaborate red herrings.  The great issue that confronts us, as it confronted Jefferson’s generation and Lincoln’s generation and every generation to some degree, is this: Is America to be ruled by all of us and for all of us—or has the American government in fact become a government of, by and for a relative few?”   p83

“A mean group of selfish people did not decide to steal America; what happened is that we gave her away.  We have not been vigilant on behalf of our own good.  We have failed to make periodic recourse to democratic principles, allowing ourselves the disempowerment of ignorance and distraction.  We have turned our eyes away from things that, in a free and democratic society, the citizenry cannot afford to turn our eyes away from.”   p84

This is a very intelligent, well-educated woman who is deeply rooted in spirituality.  In her talk on the Occupy movement, she speaks of “self-correction” — this is what democracy can do, this is what we need to do.

I wondered where those highly significant words came from and checked Wikipedia.  Lincoln’s law partner, William Herndon, had brought him some sermons by the abolitionist minister Theodore Parker.  He says:
One of these was a lecture on ‘The Effect of Slavery on the American People’…which I gave to Lincoln, who read and returned it. He liked especially the following expression, which he marked with a pencil, and which he in substance afterwards used in his Gettysburg Address: ‘Democracy is direct self-government, over all the people, for all the people, by all the people.’

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