SPRINGFIELD — Speaking in the room where Abraham Lincoln delivered his “House Divided” speech, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on Wednesday called for unity and mutual understanding at a time of deep racial, economic and political divisions.
In the wake of the deaths of two black men last week at the hands of police officers in Baton Rouge, La., and suburban St. Paul, Minn., and the shooting incident that left five police officers dead in Dallas, Clinton said Americans need to come together to address issues of racial injustice, police officer safety and gun control.
And a day after receiving the endorsement of former Democratic rival U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who made income inequality a centerpiece of his campaign, Clinton continued her call for making sure the U.S. economy “works for everyone, not just those at the top.”
“The challenges we face today do not approach those of Lincoln’s time,” Clinton said at the Old State Capitol in downtown Springfield, where Lincoln served as a state representative and delivered his famous speech about a country divided over slavery during his 1858 U.S. Senate campaign. “Not even close. And we should be very clear about that.
“But recent events have left people across America asking hard questions about whether we are still a house divided. Despite our best efforts and highest hopes, America’s long struggle with race is far from finished. … And despite being the richest country on earth, we have too much economic inequality, and that also undermines the foundation of our democracy.”
The challenges facing the country require “a president who can help pull us together, not split us apart,” Clinton said, pointing to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s comments about women, Muslims, immigrants and others.
“This man is the nominee of the party of Lincoln,” Clinton said. “We are watching it become the party of Trump. And that’s not just a huge loss for our democracy — it is a threat to it.”
Above all, Clinton said, people need to take the time to listen to others, including those who hold opposing views, and find common ground.
She spoke to an invited audience for about a half-hour before holding a brief private meeting with a smaller group of supporters.
Among that group was state Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, who will attend the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia later this month as an elected Clinton delegate.
Manar said Clinton’s speech helped define the differences between her and Trump.
“She delivered a very strong message of unity, a positive message that I think all Americans from all walks of life, all races, can digest,” he said, adding, “That is in stark contrast to the message of Mr. Trump and his campaign, which is a daily campaign about division. It’s a daily campaign about blaming other people for the challenges we face in the country.”
Wednesday’s speech was Clinton’s second stop of the campaign season at the Old State Capitol, which is also where President Barack Obama officially launched his first presidential campaign in 2007. Clinton came there in March on the eve of the presidential primary in her native state to tape a town hall-style event for MSNBC.