A New Birth of Freedom - 2009 Inaugural Theme

"A New Birth of Freedom" commemorates the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth. The words, echoing across 200 years from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address, express Lincoln's hope that the sacrifice of those who died to preserve the United States would lead to "a new birth of freedom" for the nation.

Abraham Lincoln

Born Feb. 12, 1809 in Kentucky to, as he described them, parents of "undistinguished families," Lincoln was the first president born outside of the original 13 colonies.

His family moved often, living in Kentucky, Indiana, and ultimately Illinois.

Before becoming a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1846, Lincoln ran a small store, served as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives, and practiced law.

The Gettysburg Address

President Lincoln was invited as the second speaker to give "a few appropriate remarks" at the dedication of the Soldier's National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on Thurs., Nov. 19th, 1863.

His speech, now known as The Gettysburg Address and considered to be one of the most quoted speeches in U.S. history, contained only 10 sentences and 272 words. Although two phrases from this short speech, "four score and seven years ago..." and "...government of the people, by the people, and for the people...", are more widely recognized, the lesser recognized "this nation shall have a new birth of freedom" is the cornerstone for the 2009 Inaugural theme.

As part of the visual imagery to convey the Inaugural theme, the JCCIC uses an image of the Hay draft of the speech. This draft is one of only five known written copies of the speech and was likely written shortly after Lincoln returned to Washington from Gettysburg. To see the full image of the draft, visit the Library of Congress's Gettysburg Address Website.

The Lincoln Memorial

Since 1981 when the Inaugural swearing-in was moved to the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, each president-elect has faced westward where he has both the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial directly in his line of site, where two of Lincoln's speeches are carved into the walls of his Memorial: his first Inaugural address and the Gettysburg Address.

Another part of the visual imagery used to convey the Inaugural theme is an image of the sculpture of Lincoln in his memorial.

Theme Selection

The theme was chosen by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies in consultation with the Senate Historian's Office. Inaugural themes are incorporated into the official Inaugural program, Inaugural Luncheon menu and decor.

Learn more

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Gettysburg National Military Park
  • Drafts of the Gettysburg Address
  • Lincoln Memorial

    Source: U.S. Senate Website

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