Coming Together to Move Forward

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

from President Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address delivered March 4, 1865

Once the results of yesterday’s election receive official certification, Ms. Stephanie Morales will become the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Portsmouth. The process that led to this outcome has much room for improvement, but it certainly is preferable to the chaos and violence that mark succession struggles in many other parts of the world. Still, it has left emotional  bruises and scars on the civic psyche which, though not necessarily visible to all, can impair our ability to work across demographic divisions in our community.

Reflection on the past, therefore, may offer us valuable insight into how “the road not taken” at an earlier critical juncture could prove our path to wholeness at this one. President Lincoln spoke of a much larger struggle than the one from which we are emerging, the American Civil War. Real blood spilled by the gallon; real lives, in the tens of thousands, ended prematurely. Yet, as the war ground down, he urged the divided country, both North and South, to “bind up the nation’s wounds” and “to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace”. The war would conclude the following month with the April 9 surrender of General Robert E. Lee, but the author of these words of consolation would die only a few days later without seeing his dream of peaceful reunification achieved.

Had Lincoln lived, our country might not have wrestled so long with the still unrealized quest to bring “liberty and justice” to all. Our past failures, however, do not preclude our achieving it now, even in the limited time remaining to us senior citizens. It requires the vision of a Lincoln or a Dr. King but also the energy and commitment of the millions of everyday people who inhabit this nation. We in Portsmouth, working together as good neighbors rather than mortal rivals can set an example for the rest of the commonwealth and the nation. The effort begins today and must continue every day.

Let us, then, congratulate Ms. Stephanie Morales and her many supporters on her election as Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney. In addition, let us thank Candidates Michael “Mike” Rosenberg, Ali T. Sprinkle, and all those who worked for them for conducting positive, issue-oriented campaigns. We would be remiss not to remember with gratitude all our fellow citizens who, having informed themselves in advance of the election, braved the elements yesterday to cast ballots for those seeking this important office. Lastly, we need to express appreciation to all the election officials who invested many hours in ensuring the integrity and fairness of the voting process. Moving forward, may we all, in President Lincoln’s words, “be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us”, that of ensuring “government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

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