Recalling the popular “What Would Jesus Do?” bracelets, American Legion National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford paraphrased those words during remarks at the 86th Annual President Abraham Lincoln Pilgrimage in Springfield, Ill., on Feb. 12.
“Now the Constitution prohibits having religious tests to hold office, but might I suggest that our elected leaders occasionally ask, ‘W.W.L.D. - What would Lincoln do?” Oxford said at a luncheon hosted by American Legion Post 32 in honor of the 16th president’s birthday. “As we look at the Global War on Terrorism, the threats represented by North Korea, China and Russia…as we look at domestic problems such as racism, drug abuse and polarization, we should all ask, ‘W.W.L.D. What would Lincoln do? In most cases, the answer would lead to a bold, morally correct and sensible solution.”
Earlier that morning, Oxford and American Legion Family leaders from several midwestern departments paid their respects by laying wreaths at Lincoln’s tomb. Oxford pointed out the challenges Lincoln faced not only in preserving the Union, but in lobbying for the 13th Amendment and authoring the Emancipation Proclamation.
“Until slavery was eliminated, there could never be civil rights and clearly not ALL men and, or, women, could be considered equal,” he said.
American Legion Auxiliary National President Nicole Clapp referenced Lincoln’s first inaugural address during her remarks at his tomb. “President Lincoln knew who his enemies were and what their objective was. Today the rules of engagement are constantly changing,” she said. “We are well aware that not everyone in the world wants to be friends of the United States. So it is our responsibility to maintain collective strength for our troops at home, abroad and always.”
The current mayor of Lincoln’s hometown compared the president to fallen servicemembers. “Like our veterans and military, who risk their lives for the belief in our country’s freedoms, Abraham Lincoln paid the ultimate sacrifice so we may live as one nation, under God and share in this freedom today,” Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder said.
It was Lincoln’s promise made to veterans and their families that has become the motto of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The words, from Lincoln’s second inaugural address, were recalled by many speakers including Sons of the American Legion National Commander Clint Bolt. “Let us always live up to ideals and principles of President Lincoln so that we can continue to carry out his mission and that of The American Legion’s, ‘to care for him who shall have borne the battle,” Bolt said.
Oxford continued the theme. “Among other things, ‘we care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan’” Oxford added. “We do this not just because it’s right, but because it’s also necessary that our ‘government of the people, by people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.’ Through the service of our brave men and women in uniform, it never will.”