Obama pays tribute to Lincoln in Illinois

February 12, 2009 (SPRINGFIELD, Ill.) Mr. Obama visited Springfield for an event that wrapped up a full day of tributes to this country's 16th president.

It was a sight and sound that was unimaginable here just five years ago. The man who many of people knew then as state Senator Barack Obama was now president of the United States.

"It is wonderful to be back in Springfield," said Obama.

As he remembered how Abraham Lincoln used the power of government to forge a new birth of freedom, Obama said his administration would also increase the role of government to attack the nation's economic problems.

"Only by coming together, all of us in union can we do the work that must be done in this country," said Obama.

Some Republicans in the audience who in the past have spoken out against bigger government were impressed.

"I think what I have seen so far from president Obama is a very nice balance," said Former Governor Jim Thompson, (R).

"I don't think most republicans are opposed to government helping those who can't help themselves," said Former Governor Jim Edgar, (R).

The president's first stop in his return to Illinois was in Peoria where he said his proposed economic stimulus plan could end layoffs at the giant caterpillar heavy machinery plant.

"Yesterday, Jim, the head of caterpillar, said if Congress passes our plan, this company will be able to rehire some of the folks who were just laid off," said Obama.

After the president left, the company's CEO disagreed with Obama.

"I think realistically, now, i mean, the honest reality is we'll probably have to have more layoffs before we start hiring again," said Jim Owens, CEO Caterpillar.

Speakers at Thursday night's event pointed out that during the 100th anniversary of Lincoln's birth in 1909, the celebrations were segregated along racial lines. On Thursday night, an African-American president told a diverse audience that their country's best years were ahead of them.

"The bit about deepest valley or whatever occurring before you reach the mountain top," said Obama.

The president left Springfield as soon as his speech was finished. He'll spend Thursday night in Washington. On Friday, he'll board the entire first family on Air Force One and fly to Chicago for a weekend at the Midwestern White House in Hyde Park on the South Side.

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