As he was inaugurated President of the United States on March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln said:
We are not enemies, but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
One hundred and fifty-six years later, I have seen these “better angels” in real life. I know who they are.
Some of them wear hijabs and work as receptionists at law firms in Cleveland.
Some of them live in the barrios of East L.A. and work dead-end jobs for tiny paychecks.
Some of them are black women in Detroit whose sons were shot by white police officers.
Some of them are WASPs who went to Yale and wear cable-knit sweaters and have names like Schuyler and Van Pelt.
Some of them wear black hats and have curly forelocks and know the Talmud by heart.
Some of them wear Slayer T-shirts and skin-tight jeans and love Dario Argento movies.
Some of them look like the woman in the picture at the top of this article.
Some of them speak Spanish and get good grades in school, but their parents are illegal and they’re worried about their families being torn apart.
Some of them were born with vaginas but always realized they were men, and their girlfriends are women who were born with penises.
Some of them were born in Bakersfield but became Sikhs and now wear turbans and long scraggly beards, but they still love Led Zeppelin and own Xbox consoles.
Some of them escaped from Iran on a motorcycle in the 1980s with everything they owned in a tiny knapsack over their shoulder, and now own vineyards whose wines have been served at the White House.
Some of them are tall guys who look like lumberjacks and wear flannel shirts, and who kiss other men at night.
Some of them are Marines serving in Afghanistan whose name tags on their camouflage uniforms read something like LITTLEFEATHER or BUFFALOHORSE.
Some of them are lawyers in Portland, Oregon who are in the top tax bracket but give $250,000 a year to charity and are on the board of the metropolitan opera.
Some of them have best friends who shot themselves because they couldn’t get mental health treatment, and who think about their dead friends every day of their lives.
Some of them live in trailers in the forests of eastern Mississippi and have not had a steady job in 11 years.
Some of them are gay men who own poodles and live in townhouses in downtown San Francisco.
Some of them devoted their lives to public service, ran for President, told the honest truth to the American people, and lost.
Some of them have life stories so bizarre and improbable, full of so many twists and turns, that if you saw it depicted in a movie you’d never believe it.
All of them believe that all of us, united together, are stronger than some of us, divided; and all of them believe that some of us, united, are stronger than one man who stands alone.
These are the better angels of our nature. Perhaps you will be touched by one of them today.