WASHINGTON – Though she's been feeling “under the weather,” Dianne Saunders-Mayo saw the Capitol Rotunda for the first time Thursday and was present for the congressional tribute to the Lincoln bicentennial.
The 11:30 a.m. program opened by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was something Mayo,”over 60″ and a 7th generation Washingtonian,wouldn't have missed. Mayo is the president and founder of a nonprofit group that researches African-American history in Washington.
“It was fantastic. It was wonderful,” Mayo said. “I couldn't resist coming,and I probably won't be around in another 100 years when they celebrate again.”
A crowd of a little more than 100 gathered in the Capitol Rotunda to hear remarks about Lincoln's life and legacy.
“It is fitting that we are holding this celebration here at the Capitol. For the life of this building is bound ever so closely to the times of this immortal president,” President Obama said. “Built by artisans and craftsmen,immigrants and slaves – it was here,in the Rotunda,that union soldiers received help from a makeshift hospital; it was downstairs,in the basement,that they were baked bread to give them strength; and it was in the Senate and House chambers,where they slept at night,and spent some of their days.”
Obama was joined by Senate Chaplain Barry Black,Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid,Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell,House Minority Leader John Boehner and other officials.
The United States Army Chorus performed the national anthem and the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
Several of the speakers included a “Happy birthday,Mr. President,” in their remarks.
Standing near a statue of Lincoln,Obama spoke briefly about the 16th president's influence on the country. Lincoln “made my own story possible and made America's story possible,” he said.
Obama added,”Even as we meet here today,at a moment when we are far less divided than in Lincoln's day,but when we are once again debating the critical issues of our time,and debating them fiercely,let us remember that we are doing so as servants to the same flag,as representatives of the same people,and as stakeholders in a common future. That is the most fitting tribute we can pay,and the most lasting monument we can build,to that most remarkable of men,Abraham Lincoln.”