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Steeped in legacy of Lincoln, Hillary Clinton addresses nation's racial divide

By
Eric DuVall
Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign rally in Pittsburgh last month. On Wednesday, the Democratic presumptive presidential nominee traveled to Springfield, Ill., to deliver a speech on race relations in America at the same site where Abraham Lincoln made his famous House Divided speech assailing slavery. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign rally in Pittsburgh last month. On Wednesday, the Democratic presumptive presidential nominee traveled to Springfield, Ill., to deliver a speech on race relations in America at the same site where Abraham Lincoln made his famous "House Divided" speech assailing slavery. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

SPRINGFIELD, Ill., July 13 (UPI) -- Hillary Clinton, speaking at the Old State House in Illinois, the site of Abraham Lincoln's "House Divided" speech, addressed the nation's racial divide and castigated her opponent, Donald Trump, for policies she said are aimed at further dividing Americans against each other.

Clinton implored Americans to address the nation's racial divide -- laid bare by a bloody week that saw two black men and five police officers shot to death -- with "honesty and courage."

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Clinton made the speech a day after President Barack Obama traveled to Dallas, a city where five police officers were killed by a black man with a sniper rifle, who targeted authorities patrolling a peaceful protest over the police killings of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana days earlier.

In her speech, Clinton cited problems on all sides of the debate -- police departments that, when it comes to minorities, fail to meet their creed "to protect and serve"; too many Americans who fail to acknowledge the vast majority of officers are trying to live up to that creed; politicians -- including herself -- who have contributed to a political environment where finding common ground is too frequently difficult or impossible; a nation with too-lax gun laws that allow assault-style weapons into the wrong people's hands.

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Clinton empathized with young Americans of color who she said justly fear police brutality.

"Too many black Americans, especially young men, feel like their lives are disposable. And they worry every single day about what might happen. They have reason to feel that way. And it's absolutely unacceptable," Clinton said.

She also faulted ordinary Americans for laying the problem of poisoned relations between police and the communities they serve solely at the doorstep of police headquarters.

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"David Brown, the Dallas police chief, said that when it comes to overcoming systemic racism and so many other problems in society, we ask too much of the police and too little of everyone else. I think he's absolutely right. This is our problem, and we all need to work together to solve it," she said.

She also accepted responsibility for fueling the nation's partisan divide that many see as an impediment to progress.

"I cannot stand here and claim that my words and actions haven't sometimes fueled the partisanship that often stands in the way of progress. So I recognize I have to do better too," she said.

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The location of Clinton's speech was steeped in symbolism and America's legacy in the treatment of blacks. Speaking at the Old State House in Springfield, Clinton assumed the mantle of Lincoln, who used the same venue in 1858 to deliver his famous speech first assailing slavery.

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It was there Lincoln proclaimed at the outset of his unsuccessful Senate campaign, "A house divided against itself cannot stand," laying the groundwork for his later presidential campaign.

Pivoting to the 21st century political environment, Clinton assailed her Republican opponent Trump for running a campaign "as divisive as any we have seen in our lifetimes."

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"It's there in everything he says and everything he promises to do as president," Clinton said.

She went on to criticize Trump's proposal to ban Muslim immigrants and his plan to create a "special deportation force" targeting undocumented immigrants that "would go around America, pulling people out of their homes and workplaces, pulling children out of school."

Clinton said the challenge of balancing competing values remains difficult, especially regarding race, but said she was optimistic the nation would confront and overcome those problems, in the same manner Lincoln was able to do during the Civil War.

"Previous generations have had to overcome terrible challenges. And no one more so than Abraham Lincoln. But in the end, if we do the work, we will cease to be divided. We, in fact, will be indivisible with liberty and justice for all. And we will remain, in Lincoln's words, the last, best hope of earth," she said.

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